After the flight from Dublin my dash to the local bathroom in Barcelona resulted in a few chuckles at what I thought was Spanglish. The handle on the inside of the door was adorned with the words ‘feel this’ yes I must admit I did giggle and I even shared an image on twitter. By the end of my two days at Mobile World Congress, ‘feel this’ may have been one of the most poignant messages I took away.
Mobile World Congress is big and from what I overheard its getting bigger - a number of attendees where starting to compare it to CES and CEBIT.
I enjoyed Mobile World Congress, working in the industry it’s a fantastic chance to meet with your peers from across the mobile landscape - its amazing how useful a chance encounter over lunch or a random chat in the hall can be. It’s also the place where companies do deals and impress potential customers, there are some fantastic stands costing multiple 10s of thousands of Euros and an accompanying small army of construction workers to put them up and take them down. Then of course there are the lavash parties and shows including a light show visible across a wide area of Barcelona when the Fira Espanya was lit up with coloured spot lights and accompanying sound track.
This deliberate show boating and visible opulence contrasts with the economic reality currently facing parts of the EU including Spain.
Like any large city the volume of people passing through the public transport system means that it often becomes the home to beggars and this was true in Barcelona. From a wailing beggar woman to the energetic young rappers trying to make a penny every trip I took I was met with someone trying to make money. This shouldn’t be surprising in a country where unemployment is running at 22%.
I only had the chance to attend 2 days of the show, however at the end of both days their were protests outside of the venue.
On Tuesday the protests where smaller but focused on the raw deal the local bank is giving to pensioners - preventing them from withdrawing their savings.
On Wednesday evening this resulted in the areas of MWC nearest the protest being closed off and the local metro station being shut, with riot police posted outside the main entrance. Luckily [what I saw of] the protest remained peaceful.
It was possible to see that the whole city was trying to convey a message - ‘feel this’, this is hard, this is difficult. It’s a sobering thought especially when you realise that even those of us luckily enough to have employment could be an excel sheet away from the unemployment line.
Feel this indeed Barcelona… Let’s hope that by this time next year the European and indeed the global economy will have improved.