World’s first ever National Databank reaches 1000 UK locations

The National Databank, created with Virgin Media O2 and supported by Vodafone and Three, is now active in 1000 locations across the UK.

Dubbed ‘a food bank for connectivity data’, the National Databank, launched July 2021 by founders Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation, supported by Vodafone and Three, is now providing support to 1000 National Databank Hubs across the UK. 

The first cross-sector collaboration of its kind in the world, the National Databank allows registered grassroots organisations within the National Digital Inclusion Network to become National Databank Hubs, providing free SIMS and mobile data (as well as talk minutes and texts) to residents and vulnerable people in need. 

According to Ofcom, there are 2 million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today, and Lloyds Banking Group report that 10 million adults lack the most basic digital skills. Access to the internet has become an essential utility. Digital exclusion means being unable to participate full in today’s society, with barriers to accessing healthcare and managing finances. The National Databank aims to tackle the burden of the cost of living crisis, helping families across the UK stay connected. 

1000th National Databank 

To help people in need stay connected, Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation have opened the 1000th National Databank Hub, part of the National Digital Inclusion Network, at Summit Learning Trust in Birmingham.

Vince Green, CEO of Summit Learning Trust says: 

“Summit Learning Trust is proud to be joining 999 other databank hubs around the UK who are working tirelessly to ensure families can access free mobile data and receive the vital support they need. With a network of around 8,000 learners at Summit Learning Trust, across Birmingham and Solihull, we are perfectly positioned to support our community in this way and continue the work that Good Things Foundation and Virgin Media O2 are doing. The support we’re now able to provide will be invaluable for families in our region who risk losing connection with their community and loved ones without this support with their mobile data.” 

The milestone comes as the Greater Manchester Databank, part of the National Databank, distributed 20,000 SIMs to eligible residents in need via 100 National Databank Hubs earlier this month.  

Since the National Databank was launched in July 2021, it has distributed 159,000 free SIM cards. The number of Databank Hubs will continue to grow, and applications are open to organisations that could distribute free data to people that they support. 

At the end of last year, Virgin Media O2 brought the National Databank to the High Street for the first time, trialling the initiative at 10 O2 stores over the Christmas season.    

Demand for the National Databank is increasing, with its website receiving over 80% more visits in 2023 compared to this time last year as people search for help to stay connected during the cost-of-living crisis. 

Helen Milner OBE, Group CEO, Good Things Foundation, said: 

“By reaching the important milestone of opening the 1,000 National Databank Hub – against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis – Good Things Foundation and Virgin Media’s National Databank, with support from Vodafone and data from Three, is tackling digital exclusion through the combined offer of devices, data and digital skills support. 

With 1 in 20 UK households having no home internet access, collectively we all need to do more to help the most vulnerable people in our society connect with digital. 

This underpins our 2022-2025 strategy, asking for more ambitious and far-reaching change as we scale up and expand our work in the UK. Together, we can fix the digital divide – for good.” 

Nicola Green, Chief Communications and Corporate Affairs Officer at Virgin Media O2 said:

 “With 1,000 National Databank Hubs now available across the UK, there’s more help for people in need than ever before so they can get online and stay connected to loved ones. As proud founders of the National Databank, Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of O2 data to help people get free data, texts and calls so they and their families can access essential websites, study and work from home, and keep in touch with their friends and family.”

Nicki Lyons, UK Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, Vodafone said:

“We’ve put tackling digital exclusion at the heart of Vodafone with our everyone.connected campaign: we will help four million people cross the digital divide by 2025 by providing free connectivity, affordable products and services and digital skills training to businesses and communities.

Reaching 1,000 Databank Hubs is an important milestone – and a great way to provide connectivity to grass roots organisations who can have an immediate impact in the communities where they work. Such collaboration is a brilliant example of how, together, we can break down the barriers causing data poverty in the UK once and for all.”

We’re delighted to celebrate this milestone with our partners – especially right now as the cost-of-living crisis is putting strains on people’s finances. The databank means that more people will be able to stay connected during this difficult time. 

How to join the National Databank: 

If you’re an organisation that would like to start giving out free data to the people you support – simply follow these steps: 

  • Join the National Digital Inclusion Network (if not already a member). Joining is free and gives access to support, resources and networking opportunities
  • The National Databank form is located on the application page
  • Applications are open at all times and organisations are on-boarded monthly
  • There are monthly Q&A sessions for organisations who have any questions
  • A map showing your nearest National Databank Hub can be found here
  • Databank recipients can access up to 40GB data a month and free calls and texts.  

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