The annual mega festival for mobile communications in the world kin Barcelona is seeing a flow of people from all over the world carrying with them the one must-have tech – a negative Covid-19 test, an FFP2 face mask and a digital badge for contact-tracing.
It is expected that 30,00 visitors from 143 countries will attend the three-day Mobile World Congress, or MWC, in the Catalan city which started on Monday and each one will have to go through a huge testing area that comprises of 80 booths.
Even though the crowd swell this year is far short of the 100,000-plus people attending the event previously, the physical gathering is however encouraging for the organizers of this mega telecom event – the global mobile industry body GSMA.
The Covid-19 pandemic force3d the organizers to cancel the even last year and there were concerns that only a handful of people would be attending this year’s event because of the health crisis.
“My biggest worry was that … our exhibitors would say with one voice ‘We’re not coming’ – but that’s not happened,” said Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA. The organizing body had taken a huge hit because of last year’s cancellation of the event and was forced to lay off about 40 per cent of the staff.
“These different variants are going to be here for the foreseeable future, and we just have to start living with it.”
The industry however has shown a mixed response about participating in the event. While the likes of Telefonica, Orange, Huawei, Lenovo and Vodafone will be participating, some such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung have decided to stay away.
The event this year has been organized in a hybrid manner with events being organized physically as well as virtually and through other hybrid activities. The organizers hope that this year’s event will form a framework for how such large business gatherings can be organized in the future safely.
There was a sense of eagerness among the MWC guests and stakeholders during a warm-up reception at Barcelona’s La Boqueria market on Sunday, said reports, as people networked and greeted one another with elbow or fist bumps and appeared to be keen to put behind a year where they had to remain in isolation because of lockdowns and connect via video-conferencing.
“This (MWC) marks a before and an after,” Carme Artigas, the Spanish government’s digitalisation and AI chief, said at the lunch of the event. “It’s the starting shot for us to relaunch our economy’s growth.”
However the scale of testing for the participants is a daunting task.
More than 10,000 people were tested for Covid-19 on Sunday alone.
“We are showing the world that you can actually have these events, and you can have them safe, and you can actually do business again and see each other,” Granryd said.
(Adapted from ITNews.com)