Virgin Media O2 and the digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation have teamed up to launch the first ever National Databank.
Virgin Media O2, the telecoms giant formed from the merger between Virgin Media and O2, says that the initiative is a direct response to the need for mobile operators to find a solution to tackle the data poverty crisis on a national level.
The National Databank will be available to all mobile operators and will allow community groups to distribute free data across the UK to those living in the most digitally deprived areas.
The platform has been gifted to Good Things Foundation who will administer it via its network of 5,000 community groups.
The databank will provide SIM cards for those in need, and ‘data voucher codes’ that can be used to access free data. Additionally, those eligible for free data will be given access to digital skills training and guidance on other essential services.
Virgin Media O2 will donate 7.5million GB of data worth £12.5m to the databank. The network operator will also make an additional donation of £500,000 to Good Things Foundation to cover the additional admin costs for the project.
Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media O2, Lutz Schüler, said: “The pandemic has escalated the UK’s data poverty crisis like never before – and with many millions of people facing digital exclusion, now is the time to come together and close the gap on digital inequality.
“Our industry has done remarkable things in recent months to keep customers connected when they needed it most, but it can’t stop there. By establishing the first ever National Databank with Good Things Foundation, coupled with a £12.5m data pledge, we want to build a lasting legacy from the pandemic so we’re now asking our colleagues in the mobile industry to join us and help end data poverty for good.”
Group Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, Helen Milner OBE, said: “Having sufficient data in our increasingly digital society is not a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential. If you’re not online you can’t save money on products and services, help your children to participate in home-learning, and apply for jobs.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Virgin Media O2 to launch the National Databank, which can be thought of as a ‘food bank for data’. Now is the time for us to come together to address the issue of data poverty in the UK once and for all.”
Matt Warman, the Digital Infrastructure Minister, said: “I welcome Virgin Media O2’s significant investment in the National Databank. This is a perfect example of industry innovation making a huge difference to people’s lives, and will mean more practical help for those on low incomes to get online and access the endless benefits of digital connectivity.”
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