Adapting to covid-reality has become a necessity of the present. People have to learn to live with it, and countries have to determine the consequences of a pandemic and work actively on it. The sphere of education did not lag behind this covid chaos. This sphere received a rather strong blow. First the learning process was stopped everywhere and then, all over the world had to continue the learning path in a new format.
The World Bank released a special report in 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education. As a result of the situational analysis of Europe and Asia, the report identified several important problems that affected the higher education institutions of these two continents as a result of the pandemic. It has been found that the problem of internet delivery is equally troubling to people on different continents - low speeds fail to provide a dynamic online learning process, and better quality service is an expensive pleasure for many of them. In addition, access to personal computers was a problem. Added to all this was the fact that the higher education institutions themselves did not have the necessary infrastructure for online teaching, which would have been targeted at a large number of users, nor were members of the academic team ready to fully digitize the lectures. In addition, the World Bank report also states that distance learning is not always effective, especially during activities such as discussions, interactive group work, and more. That is, everything that helps the student to develop the necessary skills. The report also noted that the focus on cognitive skills was often at the expense of socio-emotional skills, which is also a significant challenge.
According to international studies, the pandemic has affected the lives of more than 200 million people worldwide, including more than 157,000 Georgian students. Along with the main actors in the field of higher education - students, members of the academic and administrative teams of universities also found themselves in this whirlpool of uncertainty. Following in the footsteps of the transformed learning process, at ACT we decided to find out how ordinary Tbilisians value online learning and what they consider to be the biggest problem. As the results of the survey conducted in June show, in general, taking into account all the factors, the surveyed Tbilisians evaluate negatively online learning [out of a maximum of 10 points, this impact is assessed at 4.1 points]. Assessing the specific impact it has had on our country's higher education, the answer is even more negative [3.3 points out of a maximum of 10 points].
We asked our respondents what the difficulties were / are related to the transition of universities to online education due to the pandemic. 18% said that not everyone had / does not have access to the Internet; The other 18% cited the lack of the necessary material and technical base for online learning as the main difficulty, which combines the lack of a personal computer, lack of workspace and other technical problems. Among these difficulties, unequal access to the Internet was named as the "most problematic" for 19%.
Chart # 1. Difficulties Faced with Higher Education Institutions Switching to Online Education Due to Pandemic
At the end of last year, we conducted a survey for the United Nations Population Fund to assess the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on young people, and it is interesting to note that similar views and problems were identified with young people directly related to online learning. Young people living in Tbilisi, Imereti, Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti participated in the study. Difficulties with online learning were cited as low readiness and technical problems for students and academic staff in online learning: low access to the Internet and lack of the necessary material and technical base for online learning. The latter problem was particularly acute in families with several members having to study and work online.
Another result of our survey is interesting - according to one in ten Tbilisians surveyed, the transition to online education has turned out to be quite negative for a certain group of society, which is associated with asociality and related stress. 11% of respondents named the lack of socialization as a serious problem, which in the future may create mental health problems for both young people and people of different generations. Incidentally, this challenge was also named as one of the topical problems in the above-mentioned survey conducted for the UN Population Fund.
It is true that online learning has been and still is associated with many difficulties, however, this method also has its advantages. We asked Tbilisians what they think is the positive effect of online learning. One in ten respondents found it difficult to assess this (12%), and 21% do not think that switching to online learning can have any positive effect at all. However, when talking about the benefits of online learning, the majority of respondents identified two important factors - saving time by 21% and protecting against the spread of the virus in a pandemic, or safety by 20%.
Graph # 2. Positive effects of online learning
As it turns out, online learning directly for young people also has its positive effects - in addition to saving time and financial resources, it allows students to easily combine learning for other jobs. These positive aspects of online learning were revealed by a survey of young people at the end of last year. The same study then also showed that because of the advantages listed, the transition to a hybrid learning model was considered important by young people.
Talking about the positive aspects of online learning, young people mentioned one more thing - the introduction of this new format has increased the opportunity and made it accessible to both Georgian and international online training courses. This is an important and strong argument for those who want to learn and develop.
Teaching format in postpandemic reality
Respondents were also asked what they thought the university teaching format should look like after the pandemic ended. It was found that the majority of Tbilisians surveyed (57%) support the idea of only offline (audit) teaching. However, the hybrid learning format also has enough proponents - 39%.
Graph # 3. What should be the format of university teaching after the end of the pandemic
Despite the difficulties associated with online learning, the idea of hybrid learning is uniquely welcomed by young people. Because the main positive effect - "combining learning with other things" turned out to be quite a weighty argument for them. That is why it is quite natural that young people will be happy to meet the existence of a hybrid learning format in the post-covid reality.
However, despite the positive attitudes of young people towards hybrid education, the transition to such a model of the Georgian university system may be premature. At this stage, the mixed model of teaching in universities is a forced response to the challenge and not a new format of teaching, which was developed to create an effective university education system.
According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic will not only be defeated, but will regain strength by the fall, and there is a high probability that distance learning and work will become an inevitable reality in the near future. That is why, with regard to the future prospects of online learning, the European Commission has developed the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) for the coming years, which outlines the priorities to be focused on outcome-oriented learning. Conducting more digital specialists, as well as creating user-friendly mechanisms and secure platforms that adhere to e-privacy and ethical standards.
Naturally, all these issues will be relevant for Georgia as well, and we can confidently assume that distance learning will become an essential component of higher education. Only time will tell how our country will be able to cope with this challenge and provide quality education for future generations. However, one thing is clear - the need to switch to forced online learning will at least help increase the digital competencies of both students and academics, enhance digital capabilities by universities, improve software, and create quality content for e-learning. It undoubtedly has the advantages that can be used effectively and boldly in the post-pandemic reality of education.
 Farnell, T., et al., 2021. The impact of COVID-19 on higher education: a review of emerging evidence. Analytical report. European Commission. EU Publications.
Author: Keso Esebua
Senior Consultant, Development Consulting
You have probably asked yourself this question many times for yourself and those gathered with friends, you have often talked to yourself - when will we be able to travel? We check the list of co-safe countries on the Internet and read, "Are we on the list of countries with red or orange status now?" On the street we are watching for a small groups of tourists and we surprised of their courage.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, everyday life around the world has changed radically. Among the affected sectors, tourism has been named as one of the most "dangerous" activities, and if we borrow the OECD study, in 2020, even about 80% decline in international tourism worldwide was expected. But tourism is one of the important sources of economic growth in Georgia. If we look at the numbers, we will see that the revenues from this sector increased from 5% to 18% of GDP during 2010-2019, which significantly increased the budget. One is the budget, and the other is the people, who have found a source of income in this sector.
The tourism during Covid 19 like swinging on the waves - a reduction in regulations is often followed by an increase in the number of flights, overcrowded hotels, which seems to revive it. However, each new wave of pandemics detected from time to time makes today's fragile environment even more unreliable and puts the country back in a state of uncertainty. What solution remains when the environment is so volatile and the tourism sector is completely dependent on it?
The general answer to this question might be to adapt, to adapt tourism to the existing reality. However, today, traveling as a tourist does not sound very attractive. The reason for this is the feeling of insecurity, the constantly changing rate of the covid-infected, the risks of closing the borders again in a foreign country, and so on. It is at this time that domestic tourism becomes relatively promising, which avoids certain risks and allows for short-term travel.
Based on the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia in recent years (2016-2020), it can be said that about half of the residents aged 15 and older travel within the country primarily to visit friends and relatives. It lags far behind the number of travelers for other reasons (shopping, treatment, etc.). And even 10% of our citizens do not travel locally for leisure and entertainment. It is true that this number almost doubles during the summer, but the fact is that travel in own country for leisure and fun remains a very unpopular topic. Anyway, it was like that before the pandemic and it is like that now, even in the first quarter of 2021. As expected, Tbilisi, Imereti and Adjara A / R are among the most actively visited places. By the way, in the conditions of the pandemic, compared to previous years, the number of people wishing to spend their vacation in cottages has almost doubled (up to 16%).
"I remember being proud and enjoying my lifestyle, constant travels and adventures: Berlin, Paris, Dhaka, New Delhi, Kerala ... different countries, cultures and news," said Salome, who traveled abroad quite often before the pandemic. - "Once, a friend came from Bangladesh and called me to meet him for a while. The whole evening, he was talking about Racha, Svaneti and even some lakes in astonishment. He was asking me with round eyes - what? You don't know it?. A few months after the start of the pandemic, I realized that now was the time for me to get to know my country. I have a plan - I have to visit all the national parks of Georgia this year! Reserves, see lakes. I have already been to Tskaltubo, to Kazbegi. In Samtskhe-Javakheti I also saw birds of strange beauty sitting on the lakes and I know, that now I am planning go at Chiatura. "
The survey showed that 28% of the population aged 18+ have no plans to leave the capital at all in the summer. 9% of them refused to leave Tbilisi this year because of the pandemic, citing the risks of safe vacations and declining incomes as the main reasons. 12% of respondents have not yet decided whether to rest, which is mainly attributed to the job or lack of finances.
Most of the respondents, at least 60%, consider traveling in the summer, although very few of them plan to spend the summer abroad (6%). The research showed that those who want to leave the city in summer are mostly under 54-year-olds from Tbilisi. Among them, young people under the age of 34 are mainly going to spend the holidays at the sea or in the mountains, while the population aged 35-54 is equally desirable to spend the holidays at the sea and at the family / relative's cottage.
It should come as no surprise that due to the pandemic, more than half of the population is quite confused about summer plans, which is related to the selected vacation spot, duration and, most of all, budget. One-fifth (20%) of the respondents had to change their vacation location, mostly people who had visited both sea and mountain resorts before the pandemic and / or were actively traveling abroad. It was also revealed that due to the complicated economic situation due to the pandemic and the lack of desire to stay in a foreign environment for a long time, a large proportion of travelers prefer short-term travel to long-term vacation.
Although the creation of the vaccine has raised positive expectations in the society, the problem in the tourism sector is still relevant for Georgia and the world. Moreover, the OECD predicts that in 2021 we will have to live in "survival mode" again and return to the usual mode of tourism, will remain a matter of the future. Against this background, the importance of such factors as the availability of vaccines, the increase in the number of vaccinated people, the removal of restrictions in the face of mitigated pandemic waves, etc. is becoming increasingly important. All this is directly related to the activation of tourism processes, which is vital for a country like Georgia. For a country for which tourism is one of the most important ways to deal with unemployment.
* A survey was conducted in June 2021, by random sampling, with 411 adult residents of Tbilisi. Method used - telephone interview. The statistical error of the data does not exceed 4.9%.
Author: Keti Mamadashvili
Analyst, ACT Research
As the Coronavirus pandemic started, economic downfall made society face threat of unemployment and loss of incomes. Drastic decrease of incomes is directly connected to purchasing capacities and considering tendency of growing prices on food products, the picture is not that pleasant. It’s a fact, that this situation hits low income families the most who spend the majority of their incomes on food.
When compared to the previous year, prices on food globally increased by 14% in 2021 (World Bank, Food Price Index 2021), Georgia did not fall behind this negative tendency. In April of the current year, ACT got interested in the impact of increased prices and inquired respondents on the dynamics of costs spent on food and frequency of using different products over the past 6 months.
In the spring time, social media was overflowed by record growth of oil price and this became a popular topic for discussions or jokes. Even though the price of oil reached its historic maximum price since 2008, unfortunately, oil was not the only main character in this story and the pandemic appeared to be pushing prices up and up on food products. Based on National Statistics Office of Georgia, prices in food category went up by 0.3% in April compared to the previous month which was reflected in 0.1% growth in 7.2% inflation rate. In good categories, prices of fruit and oil, fish and sweets showed the biggest growth rate:
The majority of 401 respondents we inquired, confirmed drastic increase of prices and declared that they have to spend more and more on food recently. If we look at data in age perspective, the picture is similar for all age groups – the majority of respondents (averagely 75%) in 18-34, 35-54 and 55+ age groups report on noticeable growth of prices in food category over the past 6 months.
According to the study results, the most frequently used products (everyday, several times a week) include bread and bakery, vegetables, fruit, dairy products and sweets for the majority of respondents. Relatively less frequently consumed products are frozen and canned meals, fish and oil, butter, sugar and cheese. If we compare this list to the dynamics of prices provided by GeoStat, we’ll see that most frequently used food products are now more expensive. The products listed below take the majority of space in consumer basket according to frequency of use.
Impact of the shock
To sum up briefly, the pandemic and its negative effects on the economy was not unexpected – breach in food supply chain and delaying processes logically follow similar crisis. The Coronavirus pandemic caused delays in functioning of global food value chains, which affected every phase of food supply. This all originated from the restrictions and regulations set in forth by governments of different countries.
For now, food prices have to cope with the shock caused by the pandemic. Prices increase from month to month, as well as annually. Even though developing, food importer countries are number one target for price growth caused by the pandemic, however, in import-depended Georgia where other external economic factors are actively making impact, including depreciation of the national currency, growth of prices on food products is even more evident and noticeable.
Author: Lika goderdzishvili
Portfolio lead, development consulting
COVID-19 outbreak caused one of the most severe crisis in the history of mankind and entire world still tries to cope with it. As of now, number of infected individuals exceeds 158 million, while number of deaths caused by the virus is more than 3,2 million. The pandemic changed entire world and alongside, severely affected all the existing industries. Its results were reflected in global economic recession, including bankruptcy of small and medium businesses, increase of unemployment rate, crisis in tourism sector, record fall on stock exchange, etc.
Economic recession during the pandemic
Global economy was severely hit which was caused by regulations set in forth for prevention of the virus outbreak. As soon as the pandemic started, it drastically changed lifestyle, occupation and in general, our everyday life. Soon enough, the majority of countries announced strict lockdown as the most effective tool against the virus and social distancing as the best way to protect each other. These regulations made huge impact on the global economy and left millions of people jobless. According to the 2020 report issued by World Health Organization, 114 million individuals were left without job all over the world this year. In total, 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost throughout the year which is equivalent to 255 million full-time work. The given rate is approximately 4 times higher compared to working hours lost as a result of global financial crisis in 2009. Loss of the resource on labor market was naturally caused by bankruptcy of companies or compulsory slim down of personnel. In 2020, Gross Domestic Product globally decreased by 3.7 trillion USD, which equals 4.4. percent decrease. Process of economic improvement is particularly hindered by regulations related to social distancing which were set in forth due to airborne transmission of the virus.
Immunization as the way of survival
Work on Covid-19 vaccines started in different labs as early as in 2020 and as for today, vaccination process is actively implemented in the majority of countries. In order to restore social gatherings and return to office space, it is clearly most important to minimize health-related risks. At this point, this can be achieved only with help of herd immunity, which means that more than half of country/world population needs to be resistant to the virus. Only mass vaccination will make it possible to achieve this goal. However, it is a fact that generation of herd immunity requires significant period of time and medical resources. In addition to this, there is lack of citizens’ readiness to get vaccinated which sometimes prolongs the said process even more. All these, added up together results in delayed immunization process and economic recession goes on indefinitely.
Potential effect of mass immunization
More than 2,02 billion doses of vaccine are used in the world and more than 443 million people are fully vaccinated. More than of world population is vaccinated at least once and 5,7 percent of population is fully vaccinated. Even though it takes certain amount of time after mass vaccination to generate herd immunity, but looking at the examples of some of the countries, we can already speak about first results and positive tendencies coming from vaccination.
Israel holds the leading position in population immunization process where more than 63 percent of citizens have at least one dose of vaccine and more than percent of citizens are fully vaccinated. This enabled the country to generate herd immunity and restore activities in public spaces or offices which will definitely make its impact on the economy. Vaccination level is so high in Israel, that it is no longer required to wear a mask outdoors and regulations are significantly lighter. In addition, schools are now open and fully vaccinated people can freely visit restaurants, attend cultural and sports events, concerts in large halls and celebrate religious holidays in mass gathering spaces. As a result of relaxed regulations resulted from vaccination, service field has already started working in the country and companies operating in this sector already make their first steps to cope with financial crisis.
51 percent of population in United States of America got at least one dose of vaccine and more than 41.5% is fully vaccinated. Part of strict regulations are abolished, including: fully vaccinated people are allowed not to wear a mask indoors and outdoors unless it is required by the law of the specific state. In addition, it is no longer compulsory to do COVID test or stay in self-isolation for domestic or international travels. This helps to revive the tourism and allow companies and their employees operating in this sector to go back to economic activity.
With help of high level of vaccination, these countries manage to open economy, restore everyday activities and enable business sector to work fully – this supports generation of new jobs and is the first step to restoring country’s economy.
From tough challenges to new opportunities
We all know the world before the pandemic, but we can only assume what it will be like after the pandemic is over. Based on past experiences of overcoming crisis situations, such was big depression in 30ies, global economic crisis after World War II, economic recession after the collapse of Soviet Union or world financial crisis in 2009-2010, together with world leading analysists/experts we can assume that the end of this pandemic will be followed even more changes:
Altered consumer behavior – the pandemic has already drastically altered consumer behavior and this change will become even more distinct in long-term perspective. When coping with instability, people had priorities, requirements and values shifted. Consumers’ expectations towards companies will change, they will want new way of receiving service and purchasing products. Respectively, companies will have to remodel their working methods and presumably, role of e-commerce, remote services and automatization of processes will grow even bigger in future.
Labor market – remote format of work provides new challenges and opportunities for employers and employees. Nowadays, more and more employees have a desire to work remotely or choose hybrid format of work implying shift of remote and office formats. It is presumable, that employers will consider switching their employees to remote format in the post-pandemic era which will enable them to cut costs.
Business sector – many industries face inevitable changes and in order to cope with the pandemic, companies had to beat off rather painful hits. Such change of the environment pushed businesses to revise their strategy. Traditional methods of doing business turned out to be ineffective in many industries, while business companies showed insufficient flexibility and adaptation ability. Companies like that will have to develop renewed business models, remodel their strategies and adjust to new requirements of consumers which need to be appropriate to the post-pandemic era as well.
Digital era – digitalization process of business sector started even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 outbreak drastically accelerated this process. Digital transformation is inevitable in today’s reality and its need will be even more obvious after the pandemic is over. It was digital technologies that made it possible to remotely work, study and in general, communicate in a new way during the pandemic. Intense investment in the sector of digital technologies will continue after the pandemic too and new services or completely new industries will inevitable emerge.
The Coronavirus Pandemic made the mankind face a variety of challenges and opportunities at the same time. Fighting against the virus is a complex process where you can only gain advantage through joined forces. In the process of coping with the pandemic, economic rates may get equal or even exceed pre-COVID results, but considering its tremendous size, the pandemic thoroughly changed external factors and people’s mindset as well. Even though no one knows for sure that the new world will look like, but it is vitally important for all of us to realize that mass vaccination is not a simple solution to the problem and key to improve global/local economic condition. Vaccination just gives us a chance to live with fewer regulations, return to social space and restore economy with our bare hands. To say it in other words – mass vaccination will help us pass the road together from immunization of population to regeneration of economy.
Author: Saba Khergiani
Junior analyst, management consulting