Written by Marta Hormachea, Michaela Kwoka-Coleman, and Hania Eid

The global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially impacted not only Spain’s already-fragile economy but its cultural sector as well. As cities across Spain have suspended cultural activity, MigraCode — and our parent organization Open Cultural Center — has been continually adapting to the new regulations, methods of teaching and means of ensuring migrants and refugees receive the coding education they need to become top talent prospects in the Barcelona the sector. 

According to an April 2020 study by the Fundación Contemporánea, only 1.9% of cultural professional participants could continue their activities normally after March 11, when the lockdown was declared in Spain. During the state of alarm, 23% of institutions cancelled all activities and most (66%) decided to shift their activities to online platforms. 

The tech sector’s economy

In regards to the sector’s economy, the effects of lockdown have been severe both in terms of income and employability. Further statistics highlight the severity of COVID-19’s impact on the cultural sector:

  • Twenty-one percent of organizations cancelled all activities for 2020 as a whole since they had to factor in the uncertainty around the date and conditions of the cultural sector’s reopening. 
  • Thirty-five percent of the respondents consider that their institutions are at considerable risk of shutting down completely in the near future. 
  • Twenty-seven percent consider the risk to be much higher if no measures of return are implemented. 

Impacts on tourism and culture

This is also a consequence of the sudden interruption of the tourism industry, which represents about 15% of Spain’s GDP and which is closely connected to the cultural sector

It is also interesting to mention that the Spanish Ministry of Culture didn’t establish general measures to support the cultural sector, but only created a special credit for autonomous artists, not institutions. Regarding employment, 35% of institutions within the private sector used temporary employment regulation measures for their employees. Additionally, 33% said they will need to reduce their team in order to survive the crisis, meaning many individuals are or will be unemployed. 

A positive outlook

Despite the grim outlook, industry professionals don’t believe that the health crisis will completely cripple the cultural sector. 

A study by Fundación Contemporánea found only 7% of institutions and agents believed they would lose all of their predicted income in 2020. Twenty-eight percent declared to have lost more than 50% of it already, and 26% claimed to lose between 25% and 50%. 

Moving activities online is largely viewed as a way of surviving this crisis. Despite the difficulties, 88% of respondents expressed hope around the idea of digitizing their activities as a complement to other economic measures that have to come from the Spanish government. Respondents believe that bringing culture closer to technology can help in the recovery of the sector. However, the organizations also declare that they lack the knowledge and software necessary to digitize and broadcast their activities and content. 

“Moving online has been a tremendous challenge, but both our students and volunteers have shown great strength and flexibility to make it happen,” MigraCode Program Manager Vincent Van Grondelle says. “With their support, we have been able to fully continue our program online, including giving our students the additional support we already offered before the pandemic.”

How MigraCode has adapted teaching methods

With the ever-evolving situation of Covid-19, companies are also forced to adapt safer and more sustainable modes of operation and workforce communication. This new implementation has allowed Spanish businesses to actively use video chatting and data storage programs with their employees, giving them a better sense of connectedness. In fact, collaboration tools such as Zoom have seen an upsurge of 2.13 million downloads in March 2020.

In accordance with government regulations, MigraCode moved all of its activities online during the 2020 state of alarm. This included not only classes, but staff meetings, job fairs and other events turned webinars. After the state of alarm was lifted in the summer, MigraCode has continued to follow government guidelines regarding in-person meetings and events. 

For instance, the October graduation held at the Glovo offices was a scaled down event where social distancing and mask wearing was strictly enforced. 

Technological shifts and future development

These responses to the crisis explain why, in general, the Spanish tech sector, and indeed the world, has been booming since the beginning of lockdown. Both employers and employees are finding online platforms to be more convenient to access documents easily, communicate with others, and stay connected (literally). Consumers are also reaping the benefits of these new implementations because they’re able to make appointments, buy groceries, and get their work done, all online and on the same device. 

This technological shift in modes of operation has created both advantages and disadvantages for tech companies. 

The activities of certain players in the technology sector, such as teleworking specialists, creators of collaboration solutions, e-commerce and online entertainment platform services, are in full swing. Contrastingly, smartphone companies are predicting a significant decline in sales and production in the next upcoming years. Because of a lack of labor in their supply-chain, smartphone and device-production companies are facing a potential decline of up to 12% in sales and production in 2020. 

What also affects this decline, particularly in sales, is the price factor. Because of current scarcity, consumers are now cross-comparing product prices 44% more than they were last year, which consequently halts product consumption and adds to the overall sector decline.

Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the growing indispensability of information and communication technologies in today’s world and in the professional field, especially in the cultural sector. Teaching people from vulnerable groups technological skills while giving them the opportunity to develop their creativity is a way of contributing to the recovery and future development of the cultural sector by bringing it closer to technology. 

Related: Our Response to the COVID-19 Situation


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