IT intelligence: Second Life

Robin Fisk foresees a big fundraising future for virtual world Second Life.

Do you ever stop to marvel at the technology on your desk? Your PC is probably 25 times more powerful than the one you were using five years ago, and your mobile phone can probably synchronise with your calendar and your email.

Progress has been amazing, and our ability to absorb and embrace technology has been tested like never before. Some charity websites are using technologies that just a couple of years ago would have seemed unlikely at best, frivolous at worst. Podcasts are becoming commonplace, and video podcasts are also being used to communicate from abroad. All this helps donors engage in ways that were prohibitively expensive until recently.

So what looks a bit wacky from the perspective of today but could be commonplace in years to come? Here's one idea.

Second Life is an enormous online virtual world inhabited by a population of its users' digital alter egos. Almost three million people are registered users. You can 'buy land' and build up virtual wealth in Second Life's currency, Linden Dollars, which can be exchanged for real-world cash.

So how about fundraising by getting real-world staff and volunteers to work, trade and exchange their virtual worth for your organisation's real-world benefit? A charity could buy an island for hosting events, for which celebrity supporters could provide content and visitors would pay to attend.

The American Cancer Society held a virtual walkathon in Second Life last year. It also has 15 virtual fundraisers who roam around Second Life asking for donations. Save the Children UK sells virtual yaks and collects donations in Second Life.

Bear with me. It may seem wacky now, but who'd have thought that 10 years ago we'd be buying telephones with built-in cameras?

- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

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