O2 has launched a nationwide campaign to provide the most vulnerable people access to mobile technology.
The mobile operator is partnering with charity Hubbub to donate 10,000 mobile devices and a year’s free connectivity to digitally excluded people in parts of the UK facing the strictest lockdown restrictions.
How to help
The Community Calling scheme will first be deployed in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, as these areas all have high levels of inequality and exclusion, according to O2.
This will then be followed by a national rollout in Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Swansea, with the deployment expected to be completed by spring next year.
To support the cause, the public is being encouraged to donate their unused or unwanted smartphones for redistribution. Alternatively, people can choose to donate the cost of one month’s data. All donations can be made online via Hubbub.
O2 said the scheme will target cities that are facing the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, and those at risk of being moved into Tier 3, to help counter the isolation which can accompany such measures.
As well as the donated devices, O2 confirmed it will provide 12 months of free connectivity to recipients, including unlimited minutes and texts, as well as 6GB of data per month for a full year.
Keeping the country connected
The new scheme has received backing from the government, with the minister for digital infrastructure, Matt Warman, praising the initiative.
He said, “Digital connectivity has been a lifeline for many of us during the pandemic and I welcome O2’s efforts to get more vulnerable people online.
“The government brokered an unprecedented deal with mobile operators to offer extra support to those struggling to pay their bills and I am pleased to see O2 is continuing to do whatever it can to help those affected by the virus.”
The creation of the scheme comes following a successful trial in Southwark earlier this year, which saw 500 devices distributed to residents.
Mark Evans, O2 chief executive, said, “We’ve already seen the positive impact Community Calling has had on vulnerable people in Southwark, so we’re pleased to announce this expansion and tackle digital exclusion elsewhere across the country. We’re determined to support the people who need it most.”
Hubbub co-founder and director, Gavin Ellis, also called on businesses to get involved in the scheme by organising bulk device donations or providing collection boxes.