• ‘Community Calling’ – a partnership between O2 and Hubbub invites people to empty their drawers of old phones to pass on to the digitally excluded
  • The trial will initially see 800 refurbished smartphones and O2 Pay as you Go SIM cards distributed to ‘digitally excluded’ people in Southwark, London
  • 1.9 million UK households are ‘digitally excluded’ from internet access, despite 4 phones sitting unused for every 1 in use across the country
  • Smartphones are proving more important than ever during the pandemic: tackling loneliness and enabling contact tracing

O2 is partnering with environmental charity Hubbub to encourage people to donate old or unused smartphones to digitally disconnected members of the community, as part of a trial to tackle digital exclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ‘Community Calling’ trial will initially involve 800 handsets being distributed to residents of Southwark in London.

1.9 million households in the UK don’t have access to the internet and are considered ‘digitally excluded[1]’. O2 and Hubbub hope to change this, starting with a trial in Southwark which aims to encourage people to donate 500 old or unused smartphones which will be gifted to vulnerable members of society.

The pre-identified list of households has been put together by a number of local organisations in Southwark. Their clients range from the elderly, those in low-income households, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers. Within these groups, each organisation has identified those who would benefit most from a smartphone, based on providing access to essential services, online learning or getting connected to family and friends.

The project will invite members of the local Southwark community and surrounding areas to donate unused smartphones which will then be data-wiped, cleaned and refurbished by Recono.me ready for redistribution. O2 is donating an additional 300 handsets alongside providing pay as you go SIMs and top up to be used with the donated devices.

Unused phones

In the UK, an average of four phones sit unused for every phone in use. O2 and Hubbub hope the trial will demonstrate a feasible phone-gifting model whereby, unused, workable phones can be donated and redistributed to the disconnected across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, extending the life of the devices whilst ensuring that people can stay connected to loved ones and vital frontline support services.

Once complete, O2 and Hubbub will share the learnings from the trial to help inform recycling and re-use initiatives in other cities across the UK.

The trial builds on O2’s commitment in March to become a Net Zero business, tackling carbon emissions in its business and supply chain. O2 has the longest-running major UK network recycling initiative in the UK, where customers can trade in their old devices for cash incentives. The scheme has saved over 450 tonnes of mobile phone waste from going to landfill, with all devices received being data-wiped and reused or recycled.

Tracey Herald, Head of Partnerships and Social impact at O2 said – “Connectivity is a lifeline for so many at this time – and with so many smart devices sitting in drawers at home, this project provides the perfect opportunity to dust them off for a good cause. The Southwark community has been particularly affected by the recent pandemic, so we’re working in partnership with Hubbub, the local council and community groups to ensure we can distribute these devices to those who need them most. The trial will help us tackle digital exclusion and help the environment too.’

Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub said – “Community Calling offers a simple way to get unused smartphones to people who need them most during the current pandemic, allowing them to access essential services, to educate their kids or to stay in touch with loved ones. Plus it has the bonus environmental benefit of avoiding electrical waste going to landfill or incineration. We’re trialling the approach with O2 in Southwark and if successful, we’ll look to replicate it elsewhere in the UK.”

Councillor Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Health and Councillor for Old Kent Road Ward said – “At a time when we can’t physically visit our friends and families, many people are relying on their phones and computers as their only point of contact with others. This is especially tough on those who are vulnerable and have to isolate completely, and those who cannot afford, or are unable to get access to, a mobile phone or a computer. Our mental health needs protecting as much as our physical health right now, and this project provides a great way to combat loneliness and keep people connected.”

Krzysztof Mikata-Pralat, CEO at Community Southwark said – “During this pandemic we are working with front-line organisations serving to support the most vulnerable and working with Hubbub and O2 to help deliver this project will ensure that many members in the borough will be more digitally included. Being able to connect with family, friends or your community is a vital lifeline during this time and we are proud to be a part of this project” 

If you’d like to support the trial and donate your old smartphones to the Community Calling project, visit http://www.hubbub.org.uk/communitycalling/ for more details.

To find out more about O2’s commitments to help the nation stay connected, visit: http://www.o2.co.uk/covid-19

Finally, you can listen to the Telefónica UK on Air podcast covering the Community Calling partnership on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Soundcloud.


Notes to editors

Press office contacts

O2 Press Office – 01753 565 656, pressoffice@o2.com

Teneo – 020 7260 2700, O2@teneo.com

 About O2 / Telefonica UK

O2 is a mobile network operator and the principal commercial brand of Telefónica UK Limited, which is part of the global telecommunications group Telefónica S.A, headquartered in Spain and operating in Europe, and North, Central and South America.

O2 is the UK’s favourite network, providing 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G services to 34.8million connections and operating a nationwide O2 Wifi service.  It has been named Uswitch Best Network Coverage provider for three years running, and won Best Network Performance at the Mobile News Awards 2019. Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) named it Best Network for Reliability in 2020.

The company is the network of choice for mobile virtual network operators such as giffgaff, Sky Mobile and Lyca Mobile as well as managing a 50:50 joint venture with Tesco for Tesco Mobile.

O2 has around 6,700 employees and over 450 retail stores and sponsors England Rugby, The O2 and 20 O2 Academy music venues across the UK.

O2 has committed to becoming net zero by 2025 and to working with supply chain partners to reduce carbon emissions by 30% in the next five years. Its O2 Recycle scheme was named Best Recycle Service at the Mobile Industry Awards.  Last year O2 was one of only three companies globally to be recertified at the highest level by the Carbon Trust Standardfor reducing supply chain emissions. Through its partnership with the NSPCC, since 2015 O2 has helped parents take over 7 million actions keep their kids safe online.

O2 was named a Best Place To Work in Glassdoor’s 2019 Employee’s Choice Awards.  Its industry-leading inclusive policies have seen it recognised with a National Inclusion Standard accreditation. In 2019 the company introduced 14 weeks’ paid paternity leave for heterosexual and same-sex couples, and it launched a toolkit for employees considering transitioning at work.  It has been the only teleco in the Social Mobility Employer Index for the last three years.

Telefónica UK Limited is registered in England and Wales. Registration number: 1743099.  Its registered office is at: 260 Bath Road, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 4DX, United Kingdom.

About Hubbub   

Hubbub is an award-winning charity that inspires ways of living that are good for the environment. Hubbub designs campaigns that make environmental action desirable; disrupting the status quo to raise awareness, nudge behaviours and share systems. Hubbub have transformed the approach people take towards communicating environmental issues and since 2014 they have built collaborations with over 700 organisations, from international businesses to local authorities and community groups. This includes bringing together all the major coffee cup retailers to collect and recycle 5 million coffee cups in 1 year, and 26 businesses to improve recycling on-the-go in Leeds. Hubbub designed IKEA’s ‘Live LAGOM’, the world’s biggest consumer sustainable behaviour change campaign and created Mothercare’s ‘Gift A Bundle’ campaign, redistributing good quality outgrown baby clothing. Hubbub also runs campaigns to reduce food waste, tackle litter and promote sustainable fashion.


Twitter: @hubbubuk

Facebook: @HubbubUK

Instagram: @helloHubbub

LinkedIn: Hubbub-UK

[1] http://futuredotnow.uk/devicesdotnow/

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