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Eurobites: Italy arms itself with Bending Spoons to combat COVID-19

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Orange charts transaction trends, offers bleedin' obvious business continuity tips; Tele2 flaunts green credentials.

  • Italy is testing a contact-tracing app from a Milan-based startup called Bending Spoons (yes, really!) in a bid to track people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Like apps being considered by the UK's National Health Service, the app will use Bluetooth technology to register when users are close to each other, allowing the app to send an alert to users who have unwittingly been in contact with an individual known to be infected with the virus. Italy is second only to the US in terms of coronavirus deaths, with more than 22,000 people having succumbed to the disease so far. For more on the European approach to COVID-19 apps, see this story on our sister site, Telcoms.com.

  • Orange, which runs its own bank in France alongside its fixed and mobile networks, has been looking into the effect that the coronavirus lockdown is having on the nation's spending habits. The catchily named study, "Afterbanking Observatory of New Banking Uses," found, among other things, that contactless payment is seen as a barrier against the virus and has led to a surge in mobile and telephone payments, with payment amounts 60% higher than usual. Online purchases were also up, nearly 30%, at the end of March compared to the end of February, with spending on lockdown couch-potato fare such as streaming services and video games almost doubling.

  • Orange has also been offering business-continuity tips to companies to help them and their employees cope in the current crisis. Some might say they fall into statement of the bleedin' obvious territory but here goes: enable remote collaboration systems for home working, ensuring secure connectivity; run virtual events rather than in-the-flesh ones; and pay attention to all communication channels, including the use of chatbots to answer frequently asked questions such as "I can see you but why am I not hearing anything?"

  • To green matters now, and Tele2 is claiming to be the first "climate-neutral" telco in the Nordics and the Baltics. This means that all of the electricity it consumes comes from renewable sources and any remaining emissions are offset. Which all translates, says Tele2, into the group's carbon dioxide emissions decreasing by more than 90%, or 45,000 metric tonnes per year.

  • In similar territory, Swisscom has published its Green Bond Framework, which allows the operator to issue green bonds or comparable financial instruments. The point of all this is the financing or refinancing of projects with measurable ecological value, such as energy-efficient FTTH installations and investments in IoT networks.

  • UK cable operator Virgin Media is providing a further 17 TV channels at no extra cost for customers, National Geographic and Discovery offerings among them. The offer stands until May 16, by which time, who knows, people will be able to quite happily spend less time with their TV sets.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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