Over the last 11 years in the UK, with huge cuts to welfare spending, more people afflicted by poverty have been turning to food banks that distribute food for free, sourced by donations from people and businesses. Using a similar model, Virgin Media O2 wants to get 255,000 people online by the end of 2023 as taking out a data plan with their phone provider, if they have a phone provider, is simply too expensive for them.
To deliver on this goal, Virgin Media O2 has teamed up with the Good Things Foundation to announce the National Databank, which will begin rolling out around the country. The pair have been trialling the National Databank for the last three months and are now ready to scale up.
To date, O2 has already donated 7.5 million GB of mobile data through the scheme and now Virgin Media O2 says it will gift 10GB of O2 data to the databank for every plan purchased between November 1 and January 31. In addition to the data, Virgin Media O2 has donated £500,000 to the Good Things Foundation to cover the operational costs of running the Databank.
To access the National Databank, community groups will be able to gain access to free data voucher codes and SIM cards for anyone who needs them. Individuals facing data poverty will then be able to get connected to the scheme through their local community organisation.
In the announcement, Virgin Media O2 provided a testimony from an early participant in the scheme. Maria, a 30-year-old from Birmingham, said:
“The donation has allowed me to order prescriptions and attend GP video calls and online physiotherapy sessions for my disabled mother, but most importantly it has provided an escape for me at a difficult time.”
In addition to the free data, those accessing the scheme will also be offered additional support such as digital skills training and signposting to other essential services. This will help those who have not used technology much in the past find their way around their devices and the web. Signposting to other essential services will make sure they get support in other areas of life if it’s needed.
To learn more about the scheme and when it will be accessible in your area, check out the Good Things Foundation’s National Databank website. If the scheme is not available in your area but you receive Universal Credit or other benefits, Virgin Media also offers Virgin Media Essential broadband which is a bit cheaper than typical broadband packages.