• Trafford Council and Virgin Media O2 have doubled-down on their joint work to tackle digital exclusion, unveiling a new digital classroom to support the community with digital skills training.
  • With around a quarter of households in Trafford thought to be experiencing some form of digital exclusion, the project aims to close the digital skills divide.
  • Hundreds of local people have already accessed digital skills training and the programme has put devices into people’s hands alongside affordable or completely free connectivity.

Residents in Trafford have come together to celebrate a community-led project, spearheaded by Trafford Council and Virgin Media O2, that is working to give residents skills, devices and connectivity to navigate the digital world.

On the 29th May, building on the council and Virgin Media O2’s existing partnership, more than 250 people attended the project’s latest event to access new digital skills training, devices and affordable connectivity.

Over 100 free O2 SIM cards with 25GB of monthly data were given to residents via the National databank and more than 100 subsidised devices were sold or gifted to those who need them most.

Through its wider commitment to tackling digital exclusion in the area, the operator is helping create a new IT suite at the St John’s Centre, a community hub in Old Trafford that provides crucial support to those in the area. New equipment and a refurbished classroom will allow the centre to host digital skills courses and provide residents with new qualifications for the first time.

Building on success

The latest initiative builds on the successful digital skills classroom Trafford Council and Virgin Media O2 established in the nearby Partington community hub, which was provided with connectivity and new devices. The venue has also been used to host events where local people could buy heavily discounted devices, and technology was donated to schools, community hubs and other local organisations.

Acting as a digital centre for the community, the digital classroom is having a lasting impact on the lives of local people. Hundreds of people have taken part in skills courses, with dozens gaining formal qualifications through the programme, many of whom are unemployed and looking for routes back into work.

Given the acute digital poverty experienced in the area, with as many as a quarter of households thought to be impacted, the operator is encouraging more local people to take advantage of free O2 mobile data via the National Databank. Available at more than 1,600 locations nationwide, including the Partington Library, the National Databank was founded by Virgin Media O2 with charity, Good Things Foundation, and is like a foodbank but for free O2 data, texts and calls.  People in need can get 25GB of free O2 data per month for six months – which is enough for around 275 hours of internet browsing per month.

Changing lives

John*, a single father with a two year old son, who experienced unemployment during the pandemic, shared his experience and how the initiative has changed his life. Struggling financially, he learnt about the support on offer and visited the library to inquire about the National Databank. He received an O2 SIM card, signed up for Virgin Media’s social tariff, Essential Broadband, and received a free device allowing him to access online resources at home. This played a crucial role in helping him secure a new job.

Commenting on the initiative, John said: “It’s been a fantastic idea for the area and really helped people in need in a community that I feel has been left behind and really struggles due to poor transport links and a lack of full time jobs. I think the Trafford Digital Inclusion Team and this project has made a lasting impact and really helped people, including me.”

Looking ahead

In the wider Trafford area, there are over 73,000 residents experiencing, or living with someone experiencing, some form of digital exclusion. With ongoing support in place and more events on the horizon, this community-first initiative demonstrates how businesses and local authorities can work together to tackle digital exclusion and create lasting change for residents.

Dana Haidan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “We are immensely proud to be spearheading this life-changing initiative alongside Trafford Council, helping ensure everyone can get online, no matter their circumstances. By bridging the digital divide and putting internet access into the hands of those who need it most, we’re creating new opportunities for people to thrive as part of our goal to connect one million digitally excluded individuals by 2025. Digital inclusion is not a one-size-fits-all effort and often requires a place-based approach and close partnership with the local community to develop solutions that are fit-for purpose. This collaborative project demonstrates how we are working with local authorities and community groups to drive positive change, and we encourage the community to get involved and access the support on offer.”

Trafford Council leader, Tom Ross said: “I was delighted to have been able to attend the Trafford Tech4All pop-up shop and pleased the event was such a success. It is vitally important that all residents throughout our borough are able to get online for a variety of reasons – to help them stay connected with friends, access the internet and look for work.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to our partners L&Q, Community Computers and Virgin Media O2 for helping us launch Trafford Tech4All which will help bridge the gap between those who have and those who do not have suitable access to devices to get online. Thank you to everyone for attending the event.”

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on:
press@virginmediao2.co.uk 01753 565656
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