Virgin Media O2 has teamed up with digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation to launch the first National Databank - a direct response to the need for mobile networks to find a long-term solution to the data poverty crisis at a national level.
The National Databank, which is open to all mobile operators, has been gifted to Good Things Foundation to run through its network of 5,000 community groups.
It will provide a central hub where community groups can access free ‘data voucher codes’ and SIM cards for anyone who needs them. Those accessing free data will also be offered additional support – including digital skills training and signposting to other essential services.
Virgin Media O2 will donate £12.5m worth of O2 connectivity (7.5m GB of data) to the National Databank by the end of 2023. This is enough to provide 319m hours of internet use to over 200,000 people in need, nationwide. Virgin Media O2 has also donated £500,000 to Good Things Foundation to cover the operational costs of running the Databank.
Ahead of a nationwide rollout in November, an initial three-month pilot with 10 community organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is now underway.
With more than seven million people across the UK unable to access mobile data or broadband at home (according to OFCOM), Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation are now calling on other mobile networks to join the National Databank, helping scale the reach and impact of the platform as a long-term, sustainable solution to tackle data poverty.
“The pandemic has escalated the UK’s data poverty crisis like never before – and with many millions of people facing digital exclusion, now is the time to come together and close the gap on digital inequality," said Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media O2, Lutz Schüler. “Our industry has done remarkable things in recent months to keep customers connected when they needed it most, but it can’t stop there. By establishing the first-ever National Databank with Good Things Foundation, coupled with a £12.5m data pledge, we want to build a lasting legacy from the pandemic so we’re now asking our colleagues in the mobile industry to join us and help end data poverty for good.”