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Eurobites: Orange tops up COVID-19 fighting fund

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Telia helps Finnish government fight COVID-19; new voice and messaging service for African diaspora; Vodafone positions itself for public sector procurement in Scotland.

  • Orange is stepping up its COVID-19 aid program, adding €3 million (US$3.2 million) on top of the €5 million ($5.4 million) it has already set aside to support a range of healthcare and preventive initiatives. In Africa, each country in which Orange operates will receive personal protective equipment as well as a specific sum for sourcing medical equipment to support NGOs and local health authorities fighting the coronavirus. In France, Orange will donate €500,000 ($539,403) to the Fondation Hôpitaux de France, which is on top of the previously announced €150,000 ($161,819) that was split between the Red Cross and two other organizations. And, in Europe, a €200,000 ($215,761) fund will be used to support various initiatives via the Orange Foundations present in each country, building on the €1 million ($1.07 million) already pledged by these bodies.

  • Telia has provided a customized version of its Telia Crowd Insights product to the Finnish government to help the authorities gain a better understanding of the population's mass movements through anonymized location data during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. As of today (Friday), there have been 1,615 recorded cases of COVID-19 infections in Finland, with 19 fatalities.

  • UK-based Gist Mobile has launched a new mobile calling and messaging app for the African diaspora and anyone who regularly calls Africa or other international destinations. The new app, says the operator, provides users with multiple numbers, cheaper international calls, and even free calls and messages to other Gist users.

  • Vodafone has landed a place on the Scottish National Framework for mobile services, a procurement platform designed for public sector organizations. The operator says it is the only telco to have been awarded a place on the framework, which started on March 17, 2020, and will run until March 16, 2022, with the option for a further 12-month extension.

  • VEON, the Amsterdam-headquartered operator focused mainly on Russia and surrounding countries, has appointed Alexander Torbakhov as CEO of Beeline Russia. Torbakhov most recently held executive roles at X5 Retail Group and Sberbank, Russia's largest retailer and largest bank respectively.

  • Data from Google has revealed, probably to no one's great surprise, that Britons have made 55% fewer visits to their physical workplaces in the past few days compared to typical travel patterns. Google's first COVID-19 Community Mobility Report covers data for March 29, comparing it to the average figures for the period covering January 3 to February 6.

  • Arcep, France's communications regulator, has confirmed that the COVID-19 crisis has forced it to postpone its 5G spectrum auction (for the 11 blocks of 10MHz that remain available in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band), which had been due to take place in April. The regulator says it will set the new auction date "according to how the current crisis evolves." (See 5G auctions delayed across Europe due to COVID-19.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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