As parts of the UK grapple with tighter lockdown restrictions and people are once again separated from social contact, O2 announces a campaign to help tackle isolation through the power of mobile technology.
The UK’s largest mobile network is expanding 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 the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark – locations with high levels of inequality, poverty, exclusion and employment challenges.
A national rollout will then follow in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Swansea and Glasgow, with the campaign targeting cities either facing, or at risk of Tier 3 lockdown restrictions – starting with London, then Manchester. The full rollout will be completed by Spring 2021.
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.
Digital connectivity has been vital this year: preserving economic output, helping businesses adapt and keeping us close to the ones we love. However, too many people are digitally excluded, without access to devices or connectivity.
O2 and Hubbub are working closely with local community groups in each city to identify those most in need of a smartphone – people who desperately need access to essential services, support with education and employment, or to 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 move 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:
Mark Evans, Chief Executive of O2, said: “Connectivity has been vital to keeping the country running during the pandemic, but if you’re unable to get online you’re likely to miss out on a lot of support. We’ve already seen the positive impact Community Calling has had on vulnerable people in Southwark, so we’re pleased to announce this expansion and tackle digital exclusion elsewhere across the country. We’re determined to support the people who need it most.”
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.”
Gift your phone
Anyone in the UK can get involved by donating unused smartphones. It’s easy to sign up online – you’ll receive a free-post donation box to post your old and workable smartphone, to be refurbished by trusted partner Reconome. It 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.
O2 and Hubbub are also encouraging businesses to support the campaign by organising bulk device donations, or providing collection boxes in their offices (where appropriate).
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.
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.