After the Environmental Audit Committee recently revealed 155,000 tonnes of electronic waste is being thrown away each year in the UK, O2 is calling on businesses to empty their drawers and cupboards to help tackle isolation through the power of mobile technology.
The UK’s largest mobile network has expanded its partnership with charity Hubbub, with the aim to gift 10,000 unused smartphones to vulnerable individuals in the most deprived areas of the UK. The Community Calling campaign is a lifeline for people who are struggling as a result of the pandemic, and will see smartphones first donated in locations with high levels of inequality, poverty and employment challenges, across London, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Swansea and Glasgow, with the full rollout completed by Spring 2021.
O2 and Hubbub are encouraging businesses to support the campaign by organising bulk device donations, offering a financial donation that can be put towards purchasing second-hand devices or providing collection boxes in their offices (where appropriate). As part of the campaign, O2 will be donating 12 months of free connectivity to the beneficiaries, which will include unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB of data per month for a full year. O2 has already received some generous offers of support from the likes of Brightstar and OLIO – which reflect the commitment of the business community to take practical action to support those affected by the pandemic
Digital connectivity has been vital this year: preserving economic output, helping businesses adapt and keeping us close to the ones we love, however that 2.7 million UK adults (5%) were unable to access the internet in the three months before August – a problem which has been amplified in our socially distanced era, preventing people from accessing family, friends or other essential networks of support.
O2 and Hubbub are working closely with local community groups in each city to identify those most in need of a smartphone – people who need access to essential services, support with education and employment, or to battle loneliness and keep connected with loved ones. The most vulnerable individuals have been identified as those who are shielding, the elderly, refugees, domestic abuse survivors and those in low income households.
All beneficiaries will also be able to access digital skills training at local support centres, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to thrive in the longer term.
Community Calling connects the vulnerable in Southwark
The expansion of the campaign follows a successful trial earlier this year, which saw over 500 devices distributed to residents of Southwark in London. It had an overwhelmingly positive effect – from keeping families connected during lockdown and reducing loneliness, to supporting home-schooling and helping people secure employment – as well as tackling the problem of e-waste. Three of the success stories from the trial are included below:
Jo Bertram, Managing Director for Business at O2, said: “Connectivity has been vital to keeping the country running during the pandemic, with businesses quickly adapting to a new world of work.
However, there are many vulnerable people who have not been able to get online during this time and are consequently missing out on much needed support. We know that many businesses have old mobile devices sitting unused that could be donated to those that need it most – helping to keep them connected this Christmas”
Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub, said: “It’s been heart-warming to see the positive impact receiving a smartphone through the Community Calling project has already had on so many people’s lives. Being connected to loved ones and accessing essential services is easily taken for granted but is still not a reality for too many people. We’re looking forward to working with O2 to expand Community Calling to get more people connected and prevent unnecessary electrical waste. We’re calling on individuals and businesses with spare smartphones to donate them to somebody who needs a device to stay connected at this difficult time.”
Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman said: “Digital connectivity has been a lifeline for many of us during the pandemic and I welcome O2’s efforts to get more vulnerable people online.
“The government brokered an unprecedented deal with mobile operators to offer extra support to those struggling to pay their bills and better deals such as free or low cost mobile data boosts, and I am pleased to see O2 is continuing to do whatever it can to help those affected by the virus.”
Gerry O’Keeffe, EV President for Europe, Brightstar, which has already made a donation to Community Calling, said: “This year has shown the importance of staying connected and the important role tech plays, keeping us connected to the people and things we love when we can’t be together. Brightstar was proud to take part through our donation of iPhones and we fully support Community Calling and the incredible work it is doing to transform the lives of vulnerable people.”
How business can get involved
We are asking businesses to spread the word among their employees to dig out any old phones. There are three options:
Can you host a drop off point so your employees can drop off their old smartphones safely and securely? These will be collected by our tech partner Reconome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a collection.
If you have several business-owned devices and chargers that aren’t being used and you would like to donate them, we can arrange a courier to come and collect them in bulk. Please follow the steps explained here and email email@example.com to arrange a collection.
By asking employees to donate their old smartphones, businesses will be actively supporting the digitally excluded in their local community. Ask employees to follow the simple steps here and email firstname.lastname@example.org for an update on how many smartphone donations your business has generated.
All donations will be data-wiped, sanitised and redistributed with user guides and PAYG SIM cards. Alternatively, those who don’t have an old smartphone can choose to donate the cost of one month’s top-up for the beneficiaries by visiting hubbub.org.uk/donate-data-to-community-calling-resources.
If you’d like to support the campaign and donate your old smartphones to Community Calling, visit http://www.hubbub.org.uk/communitycalling/ for more details.
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 Environmental Audit Committee, Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy, 2020
 ONS August 2020 Internet Access Report
Hubbub is an award-winning charity and social enterprise that inspires ways of living that are good for the environment – disrupting the status quo to raise awareness, nudge behaviours and shape systems. Their aim is to revolutionise communications with the public about environmental issues – using everyday language and good design to make environmental actions desirable and tapping into things people are passionate about such as food, fashion, homes and neighbourhoods. This innovative approach saw Hubbub win the Charity of the Year Award at the prestigious Charity Times Awards in 2020.
Since its formation in 2014, Hubbub has delivered more than 60 trailblazing environmental campaigns in collaboration with over 700 partners, helping to shift the national debate on key environmental issues such as food waste, sustainable fashion, air pollution and recycling. Hubbub’s campaigns include #LeedsByExample which brought together 25 of the UK’s largest companies to boost recycling on the high street, a 3-year partnership with IKEA to create the world’s largest consumer-facing sustainability campaign ‘Live Lagom’ and creating a Network of 100 Community Fridges across the UK, each redistributing on average 1.5 tonnes of food every month that would otherwise have gone to waste.