Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity, Hubbub, are providing hundreds of tablets and smartphones to help people in need get online across the UK with a £400,000 device lending scheme.

The Tech Lending Community scheme, established in 2022, aims to tackle digital exclusion and electronic waste by providing second-hand devices to people in need, while also giving tech a second life, preventing it ending up in landfill.

As part of a new round of funding, homelessness charities, Centrepoint and Thames Reach will receive more than 500 tablets and smartphones, which will be powered by free O2 mobile data from the National Databank – which was set up by Virgin Media O2 and charity, Good Things Foundation.

The charities will distribute the devices via their services across the country so they can be loaned to those they support to help them improve their digital skills and access essential online services such as applying for jobs, locating food banks, booking medical appointments, and contacting loved ones.

In addition, Refuge, a charity which supports women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, and received 250 tablets from the initiative in 2022, will continue to receive funding and support to run their device lending scheme.

The project is supported by Reconome which has sourced, wiped, and refurbished the second-hand devices.

The initiative forms part of Virgin Media O2’s sustainability strategy, the Better Connections Plan, and is one of the ways the company will reach its goal to connect one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services by the end of 2025.

Lending scheme goes from strength to strength

Since the launch of the Tech Lending Community scheme, more than 750 people have been loaned a tablet for up to six months at around 50 community centres, temporary accommodation, or refuge sites nationwide.

The devices and data are helping to transform people’s lives.

Sara* said:

“Being able to borrow this device has uplifted my mental health and brought joy into my life. I can now connect with my kids through video calls, share my dance videos, and witness their excitement and encouragement first-hand.”

John* said:

“The tablet lending programme made it possible for me to achieve my goal. I can now look for work in the construction field with confidence and hope for a better future.” 

Dana Haidan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media O2, said:

“We know that having data and devices can be a lifeline for people in need, enabling them to access essential websites, from applying for jobs, to accessing medical appointments, and to stay in touch with loved ones.

“That’s why initiatives like The Tech Lending Community scheme and National Databank are vital in addressing digital exclusion and data poverty, and help to transform people’s lives in communities across the UK.”

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said:

“The Tech Lending Community (TLC), in partnership with Virgin Media O2, has shown us the tangible impact a second-hand device coupled with free connectivity can have on someone’s life. Beneficiaries of the project have been able to access job support and stay in touch with friends, things that those of us who own smart devices can take for granted.

“Hubbub is thrilled to be launching a second phase of TLC, working alongside homelessness charities Thames Reach and Centrepoint, and Refuge, a charity supporting women and children experiencing domestic violence, to provide an additional 520 tablets and smartphones for them to lend to their service users. We are proud to continue doing work to bridge the digital divide in the UK, whilst keeping tech in circulation for longer.”

Jodi Leedham from Refuge said:

“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Hubbub and Virgin Media O2 once again to support women in our services by providing safe access to technology. Many of the women we help have experienced technological and economic abuse, but through this vital program, we empower them and give them the tools they need to confidently utilise technology and navigate the digital world safely. By doing so, we can support survivors to reclaim their independence and rebuild their lives on their own terms.”

Lisa Waring, Head of Partnerships at Centrepoint, said:

“We are really excited to be working with Hubbub on this project funded by Virgin Media O2. The Tech Lending Community will make a huge difference to the young people we work with here at Centrepoint, giving them access to technology by being able to lend second-hand devices.”

Peter Charalambides, Area Manager for Prevention at Thames Reach, said:

“I’m immensely proud of our dedicated team and grateful to Hubbub and Virgin Media O2 for their unwavering support in our mission to support people at risk of, recovering from, or currently experiencing homelessness.

“Through the Tech Lending Community scheme, we’ve enabled individuals to effectively manage their affairs and navigate vital systems, improving their well-being and facilitating a transition to more stable, long-term accommodation.

Nick Rawkins, Founder and CEO at Reconome, said:

“We’re extremely proud to be building towards a brighter future where everyone, regardless of where or to whom they were born, can access the opportunities technology offers: a great education, healthcare, career, and finding their life’s passion. We’re proud of our continued work to support the Tech Lending Community and exploring innovative and necessary models where we reuse technology and provide devices to those in need at scale.”


*Names have been changed.

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