In response to rising land prices at Second Life — and a need for increased control and scalability — the MuniGov association of local governments has launched the GovGrid project, and OpenSim-based virtual world environment for local government agencies.
Prices start at just $25 a region, with a $50 setup fee on the GovGrid main grid, a PG environment dedicated to government projects.
A four-region mini-grid is just $75 a month, with a $220 setup fee. The GovGrid region rental store is here.
Both configurations allow between 10 to 15 avatars to be on each region at the same time, and full estate management tools are available, as well as hypergrid connectivity to other grids.
“Our MuniGov group established GovGrid to be a safe, low cost option for those working in or for government who want to explore and use virtual world technology,” said Pam Broviak, a city engineer and assistant director of public works in Geneva, Illinois. She is also co-founder of the MuniGov group and the coordinator for the GovGrid project.
“When we first set up the grid, it was for the purpose of exploring options other than Second Life,” she said.
The original plan was to continue meetings in Second Life, however, on land donated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
However, the recent announcement that land prices for non-profits would double in January, NOAA announced plans to close down the sim on which the MuniGov meetings were based. As a result, the GovGrid project is no longer simply exploratory, she said.
“We have decided to begin the move to OpenSim,” she said.
To start with, GovGrid will have one community region, tentatively titled GovGrid1, and three regions already allocated to members — Roanoke County, Virginia; Hampton, Virginia; and Geneva, Illinois.
According to Broviak, GovGrid’s main grid and private grids will be run by ReactionGrid.
All the prices are without mark up — the hosting costs are simply passed along to the client agencies.
In addition, there are some limited free offices and storefronts available on GovGrid’s central regions.
Hosting is provided by ReactionGrid, a leading provider of OpenSim services in the educational, non-profit and business sectors. ReactionGrid currently runs a hypergrid-enabled grid of the same name, as well as over 100 different private grids for its customers.
“The focus of GovGrid is to provide a safe, secure space for people who work in or for government so that they can learn more about using virtual worlds,” says the GovGrid website. “Government professionals can also enter to meet others who work in similar areas and deal with the same challenges and issues. And the technology can be used to create 3D spaces for the purpose of exploring plans, designs, concepts, and solutions. These spaces can also be shared with others in government or with citizens. And virtual worlds have proven to be a low cost, viable solution for training.”
Some government agencies have already been considering using virtual worlds, but have held off as a result of a lack of security, the organization said. “GovGrid provides that secure setting with a government theme. You can be sure everyone owning land here is focused on government.”
For those who don’t need to rent land but simply wish to attend events, membership on GovGrid is free. You can create a new account here. To access this world, you’ll need the Hippo viewer (or another third-party viewer, such as Imprudence). Instructions for connecting are here.
To teleport in from another grid, go to the Map dialog box (click on “Map” button in the bottom right of Hippo window, or type Control-M) and enter grid.govgrid.org into search. You can easily teleport in from ReactionGrid or any ReactionGrid-hosted private grid. To teleport from OSGrid, first teleport to a southern, hypergrid-enabled, region, such as Dahlia Island.
However, teleports to many non-ReactionGrid-hosted grids will be disrupted starting on Sunday, Oct. 17, as OSGrid updates to the latest version of OpenSim, 0.7, and to the more-secure hypergrid protocol HG 1.5. ReactionGrid and its hosted private grids remain on the previous, incompatible version of OpenSim, 0.6.9, and the less-secure hypergrid protocol HG 1.0.
MuniGov 2.0 is a coalition of federal, state, local, municipal and international governments focused on exploring the use and principles of Web 2.0 in an effort to improve citizen services and communication via technology.