Virgin Media O2 opens 250 more databanks and boosts free mobile data this Christmas
Good Things Foundation's Strategic Partner, Virgin Media O2, announces all O2 owned stores will become National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs giving out free connectivity to people most in need this festive season.
Virgin Media O2 is helping more people in need access free mobile data this Christmas by rolling out the National Databank to all O2-owned stores and two major homelessness charities nationwide, alongside increasing the amount of data available to help those who
need it get online and stay connected to loved ones. This follows a successful pilot of the National Databank in 10 O2 stores last Christmas. This means that there will be an extra 250 databank hubs across the UK, taking the total of databank locations up to 1,600.
The National Databank is like a foodbank for data, providing free O2 mobile data, texts and calls. Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of O2 data to the initiative by the end of 2025.
This all comes as new research reveals that almost two thirds (64%) of Brits think this winter and Christmas will be tougher financially than last year, and more than half (52%) say they are uncertain or worried about their finances over the next 12 months. In addition, more than 8 in 10 people on household incomes less than £17,000 are considering going without mobile data to help them afford other bills.
In response, Virgin Media O2 has further boosted the amount of free O2 data available via all National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs to 25GB per month for six months – which is enough for around 275 hours of internet browsing per month.
Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation are also supporting people experiencing, and at risk of, homelessness this winter and beyond by expanding the National Databank to charities, Crisis and Change Please – Driving for Change. As well as offering free O2 data, texts and calls via the National Databank, both charities will provide free second-hand smartphones to their guests from the Community Calling programme – run by Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity, Hubbub.
With free smartphones and data, people experiencing homelessness can access essential services – such as finding a place to stay, locating food banks, accessing online medical help and contacting loved ones. Crisis will offer the scheme via its nine Skylight Centres across Great Britian – with all centres also being offered free WiFi from Virgin Media O2. Change Please will take the National Databank on the road via its Driving for Change buses which stop in deprived communities across London and provide hygiene and dental care.
With O2 stores, Crisis and Change Please – Driving for Change becoming National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs, the National Databank will be available at more than 1,600 locations across the UK. People can find their nearest Hub here.
Rob Orr, Chief Operations Officer at Virgin Media O2, said:
“To help people most affected by the cost-of-living crisis, we’re opening the doors to more National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs than ever before and making it easier for people to get connected. With O2 stores, Crisis’ Skylight Centres and Driving for Change’s buses becoming
Databanks, and Virgin Media O2 boosting free O2 mobile data to 25GB per month, there are more places for people in need to get help so they can get online, access essential services, and keep in touch with loved ones this Christmas and beyond.”
Kieran O’Brien was homeless before he was supported by Driving for Change, and has explained the importance of having free mobile data.
“When you’re homeless, having access to mobile data and the internet is so important. Often, I didn’t have credit and I’d receive messages from my family and I couldn’t send them a message back, which meant they’d worry about me. It would have made such a difference if I could have called my family and said ‘I love you’ or asked ‘how’s school?’. If I would have had mobile data, texts and calls from the National Databank, I would have got out of homelessness much quicker, there would have been more services I could have accessed and there would have been more things I have could done.”
Helen Milner OBE, Group CEO at Good Things Foundation, said:
“I’m thrilled to see the National Databank grow even larger, with more than 240 O2 stores across the UK becoming National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs, and charities Change Please, Crisis and Driving for Change joining the initiative. Virgin Media O2’s dedication to fixing the digital divide allows the Databank to extend its impact to even more people and is a lifeline to those struggling to access the internet this Christmas.
“With the cost-of-living crisis raging on, increasing the amount of data on offer to 25GB will mean more people in need can access essential services and connect with loved ones. This work underpins Good Things Foundation’s ambition to help 1 million people benefit from
the digital world by 2025. Together we can fix the digital divide.”
Henrietta MacEwen, Head of Partnerships, Driving for Change, said:
“All of us at Change Please – Driving for Change know how vital it is to have data and phone access for people experiencing homelessness. This provides a lifeline and gives vital access for information on services and the charities like us who can help someone in need.
“We live in a 24/7 online society, and no one should be excluded from that. This partnership with Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation will give the most vulnerable people the opportunity to access crucial services via phone and online who can guide and support them
in changing their lives long-term”.
Matt Downie, Chief Executive at Crisis, said:
“Being able to use the internet to access services, or call a friend or family member, is such a vital part of everyday life. Yet many
people facing homelessness often don’t have the ability to do so and without that connection, it can add to feelings of isolation and anxiety.
“We’re so pleased to be partnering with Virgin Media O2 to provide vital data and devices to the people we support. This connection will play an important part in helping people to discover a life beyond homelessness, being able to access support from Crisis over the
phone and ultimately find somewhere safe and secure to live.”
Theo Blackwell, London Chief Digital Officer, said:
“It is fantastic that Virgin Media O2 is putting digital devices and data in the hands of homeless people to help them stay connected, which is a necessity to stay in touch with loved ones or access essential services. Partnering with Crisis and Change Please will help support vulnerable Londoners across the city, as we continue to work together to build a better and fairer London for all.”
The National Databank, created with Virgin Media O2 and supported by Vodafone and Three, is now active in 1000 locations across the UK.
Data and devices helped ease Elhum*’s experiences of juggling bills and managing family life.
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