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Eurobites: Telecom Italia's offices reopen, but most will work remotely

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Ursula Burns steps down at VEON; Swiss soldiers test coronavirus app; Three UK zero-rates video consultations with the NHS.

  • More than half of Telecom Italia's 45,000 employees will continue to work from home when the company begins to gradually reopen its offices next week, Reuters reports. Under plans seen by news agency, 23,200 employees will continue to work remotely, while those who do return to the office will have to wear a face mask and observe social distancing. In terms of the coronavirus, Italy was initially very much the sick man of Europe, though the likes of Spain, the UK and France have been catching up fast.

  • Ursula Burns is to step down as chairman of the board of directors at VEON, the Amsterdam-based operator which makes a lot of its money in and around Russia. During her stint of nearly three years, Burns oversaw the sale of VEON's Italian operations to CK Hutchison and the appointment of Kaan Terzioglu and Sergi Herrero as co-CEOs in February 2020. According to LinkedIn, Burns was the first black woman to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she was made CEO of Xerox, and in 2014 Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.

  • Swiss soldiers are testing out a new contact-tracing app as part of the country's battle against COVID-19. As Reuters reports, 100 volunteers from the Chamblon army base volunteered to download the app, which relies largely on Bluetooth technology. If the soldiers spend 15 minutes within two metres of each other, that information registers on their devices and they must then exchange a "validation card" so the contact data can be checked. Once a person is positively tested, they can upload their ID onto the system so that other users' apps can check whether they have been in close proximity to the infected person. (See Eurobites: UK's NHS goes its own way on COVID-19 app, France unveils project team for StopCovid app and Eurobites: Germany at odds with Apple over coronavirus-tracing app.)

  • UK operator Three has launched zero-rating of data gobbled up when using video consultations with the National Health Service (NHS) through the Attend Anywhere platform. In response to COVID-19, the NHS has been undertaking a rapid rollout of video consultations via the platform in England, Scotland and Wales to help reduce face-to-face appointments in hospitals.

  • Redundant BT payphone kiosks have been enjoying a new lease of life in recent years – as mini-libraries and food-bank donation points, among other guises. Now these same phone boxes are being used to show support for the embattled NHS. In one community, the English midlands village of Upton, locals have been showing their appreciation by lighting up its old phone box in "NHS blue." Another, in Windsor, incorporated a tribute to the NHS into a stained-glass makeover. BT offers communities the chance to "adopt" their local phone box for just £1 and turn it into something of benefit to their local area. To date, more than 6,000 phone boxes have been adopted by their communities since the scheme was introduced in 2008.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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