2022 – Our best bits

Our Group CEO, Helen Milner OBE, reflects on some of our best moments of 2022.

What a year it’s been for Good Things Foundation – there’ve been so many amazing achievements, it’s hard to choose just a few to reflect on! We’ve formed exciting new partnerships and launched new initiatives that I can’t wait to continue in 2023. We launched a new strategy to fix the digital divide, the National Databank has grown and is being rolled out across the UK, and we’ve expanded the incredible National Digital Inclusion Network – and therefore reaching even more digitally excluded people. I’m proud of the strides we’ve taken to create a world where everyone can benefit from digital. 

I’ve pulled together some of my 2022 highlights – as you can see, there’s lots to celebrate!

We launched our new strategy 

And what a success it was! After Covid-19 changed the way we live and work, we knew that we needed a new strategy to reflect this (our “post pandemic pivot”). We worked hard across the organisation to come up with a new, ambitious plan to fix the digital divide – for good. We designed a new service for digitally excluded people made up of data, devices and skills. The new strategy is focusing on what we’re good at – providing that national social infrastructure for digital inclusion in every town, city, and community.

Our new strategy had a great response and I’m so pleased to already see some fab progress made towards our targets. Drum roll please: We’ve recruited 927 new community organisations to the National Digital Inclusion Network joining the thousands who have been working with us for years, we’ve given out 119,222 SIM cards to databank centres and the National Device Bank has been launched, with seven big employers already making donations. I can’t wait to continue building on these numbers in 2023 – helping even more people. 

Read our 2022-2025 strategy 

We celebrated our National Digital Inclusion Network

This year, for the first time ever, we recruited four of our network members as Ambassador Centres to help us shape the new direction of the network to align with our new strategy. Our Ambassadors are Lincs Digital, Starting Point, People Know How and Smartlyte, they’re from across the UK (Lincolnshire, Stockport, Scotland, and Birmingham) and they’ve already done such an amazing job of co-designing and delivering our training plan. 

In the back end of 2022 we also relaunched Centre of the Month to celebrate our network and give them the recognition they deserve for all their hard work to fix the digital divide in their communities. For 2022, these centres were: 

Congratulations to all these centres and a huge thank you to every network member who has delivered digital inclusion support this year. Your hard work is invaluable and I appreciate each and every one of you!

We literally can’t fix the digital divide without you. 

We kickstarted TWO Strategic Partnerships 

Following the launch of our new strategy, we wanted to bring together organisations with a passion for fixing the digital divide. I am over the moon that this year saw not one, but two Strategic Partnerships come to life! Back in August Virgin Media O2 became our first Strategic Partner, donating £2 million to help disadvantaged people across the country get online and stay connected. More recently, we announced that Vodafone has also become a Strategic Partner, working with us for the next three years to help us support 1 million people and engage 5000 Digital Hubs across the country. 

I’m so pleased that Good Things Foundation will be working with trailblazing industry figures like Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone going forward to make an impact at scale. A huge thank you to both teams who are doing incredible work to help us achieve our mission. 

Read more about our partnerships 

We launched Get Online London 

I’m delighted that this year saw the launch of the (first ever!) London digital inclusion service – Get Online London. A big thank you to the Mayor of London and the London Office of Technology & Innovation (LOTI) who we’re working with to turbo charge fixing the digital divide and helping digitally excluded Londoners get the help they need.

Get Online London is a partnership bringing together Greater London Authority, boroughs, businesses, charities and communities. There are over 100 digital inclusion initiatives across London and we’re piloting underpinning those initiatives with access to devices, data connectivity and digital skills, and growing a network of charities, community organisations and boroughs. We don’t want to leave any Londoners behind.

Our Christmas campaign with Virgin Media O2 took The National Databank to the High Street

Another huge milestone this year! Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation are piloting the National Databank at 10 O2 stores across the country, so more people can access free data and stay connected this Christmas. I was so happy to see the Good Things Foundation logo on O2’s Christmas advert – have a watch below if you haven’t seen it yet!

Vodafone launched ‘the face of digital exclusion’ photographic exhibition

Vodafone partnered with renowned photographer Rankin to commission a photography series that highlighted the many faces of digital exclusion. The series, ‘Faces of Disconnection’,  showcased the real stories behind digital disconnection. The photos are based on real people who have struggled to access the internet, you can view the full collection here.  The photography was launched alongside the announcement of our new partnership. 

The National Databank took home more awards 

I’m delighted that the National Databank, created in collaboration with Virgin Media O2, has won lots of prestigious awards this year. Just last week we picked up the Positive Impact Award for Technology at the New Statesman Awards. Earlier this year the National Databank won the Best Community Initiative Award at the CorpComms Awards. 

I want to give a special thanks to every single Community Partner who has become a databank centre ensuring the data lands in the hands of the people who need it most. Without you, none of this would be possible. 

We launched the UK’s first ever National Device Bank 

This year Good Things Foundation joined forces with leading sustainable electronic refurbishing company Reconome – to create an environmentally friendly solution to digital and data poverty through the UK’s first ever National Device Bank. The National Device Bank allows us to give refurbished devices alongside mobile internet access. A big thank you to the businesses that have already donated to the Device Bank – if you’re a business who can donate devices, then do get in touch via this form.

We supported powerful partnerships to build basic digital skills in communities

As our Digital Nation 2022 reminds: over 10 million adults still lack some of the most basic digital skills. This comes at a huge cost to individuals, communities and also our economy. With Capita and Cebr, we reviewed the economic case for digital inclusion, calculating a £9.48 return for every £1 invested in basic digital skills support in the UK.  

Building basic digital skills remains a key plank of our new strategy. It has been a privilege this year to support pioneering digital inclusion initiatives. For example, working with combined authorities in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and North of Tyne; in Scotland and England with JP Morgan Chase Foundation; in Wales with Cwmpas and the Welsh Government – to name just some. I’m delighted that we recently secured a grant from Google.org to promote Learn My Way through 2023. Learn My Way is our online learning platform to help people build basic digital skills, and we’re refreshing it to make it more accessible and offer a better learner experience. 

We stepped up our work to end data poverty together with Nominet

And last but by no means least – our Data Poverty Lab with Nominet has stimulated creative and bold thinking on data poverty, engaged the expertise of people with lived experience with the support of APLE Collective, alongside industry experts, public sector leaders and community pioneers. This month, Kat Dixon’s report from her Data Poverty Lab Fellowship showcased innovation and set out what’s needed for systemic change. I look forward to building on this as other Fellows share their insights in 2023 and the next phase of the Minimum Digital Living Standards research completes.

We’ve increased our role in raising awareness of social tariffs for broadband and mobile data, and calling for improvements. Our co-created guide for charities on ‘Supporting people with data connectivity’ has proven a much-needed, practical resource. And we’re now also supporting the Government’s Help for Households campaign to drive uptake.

Wow, what a year it’s been. I want to say a huge thank you to EVERY Community Partner, stakeholder, supporter and Strategic Partner who has helped to make all of these achievements possible. I’m grateful for your ongoing support – with your help more people will be able to get online and thrive in our ever changing online world. 

I wish you all a happy holidays and a peaceful New Year; I’m sure 2023 will be even more successful. I look forward to working with you all in 2023 to continue to fix the digital divide.

Helen Milner

Helen Milner OBE

Group Chief Executive

Helen Milner OBE is the Group Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation. Founded as a staff-led mutual charity in the UK in 2011, Helen led the establishment of a subsidiary charity, opening an office in Sydney in August 2017, and running the Be Connected Network for the Australian Government.

Helen has over 30 years experience of working in and leading organisations creating and delivering education over and about the internet. She was awarded an OBE for services to digital inclusion in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In 2017, she won the title of Digital Leader of the Year (UK) and was named by Computer Weekly as the 14th most influential person in UK IT in 2020. Working with British Parliament, Helen was a member of the Speaker's Commission for Digital Democracy and an Advisor on Digital Engagement to the Public Accounts Committee. She is a Board Member of FutureDotNow, a member of the Minister’s Digital Skills Partnership Board, and is on the Adult Advisory Group for MaPS (the UK’s Money and Pension Service).