Governments can come up with events that are simply beyond parody. I submit the virtual world run by the department of work and pensions [DWP) to help people understand... [insert reason here because we have no idea].
This is not the beginnings of a satire by Armando Iannucci, it turns out to be a real ‘initiative' by the DWP to explore the Second Life concept as a way of reaching out to all sorts of people who really matter, such as politicians, web developers, journalists of left-of-centre newspapers and even government PR departments short of good news to blather about.
By convenient coincidence, Techworld anticipated this last April 1, when we ran a prescient and utterly made-up story about how a government virtual world dedicated to solving online security problems had been taken over by orange jump-suited hackers out for mischief.
We suggested that the fictional virtual world would launch in 2009 (bang on), and would cost £180,000, which turns out to be £148,000 too pessimistic. In fact it cost only £20,000 to set up (plus £12,000 to run per annum), which looks like a bargain next to that prediction.
But what is it for and can anything useful really be done in a virtual world by governments? Perhaps they could invite avatars of leading government ministers down to be heckled in a virtual way by members of the public. Or might filling out an HMRC online tax return really one day mean firing up a special tax-paying avatar, complete with virtual wallet?
Only if we're paying in Second Life's worthless Linden dollars, perhaps.