Community Calling campaign: How we’re tackling digital exclusion and loneliness

We’re proud to be working with environmental charity Hubbub and O2 on a new initiative to provide devices and connectivity in Cardiff. As part of the Community Calling campaign, we will be distributing 500 smartphones and tablets to individuals without digital access.

We’ve received the first smartphones and are encouraging local businesses and individuals to donate more devices, which will be data-wiped and cleaned before being redistributed. Our neighbourhood coaches and support workers have already started identifying those with unmet digital needs, due to lack of access, affordability, confidence and skills. The beneficiaries will be given the much-needed devices to help them connect with loved ones and essential networks of support during the ongoing pandemic and thereafter.

Jamie Smith, our Director of Research and Innovation said: “We have seen the digital divide growing in our communities, both before and especially during the pandemic. Access to technology is an enabler of leading a good life for many and for others a way of simply not falling behind and doing what’s essential to function.

“That’s why schemes like Community Calling are so valuable and we’re delighted to be partnering with Hubbub and O2 on making it a reality in Wales and for the customers we serve. We know it will make a big difference and we’re ready to get started – we have a brilliant team of Neighbourhood Coaches and Support Workers involved.”

A new report by Ofcom has revealed that 13% of the Welsh population do not have access to the internet at home; that’s an estimated 400,000 people. Using the internet to connect with family, friends and online support and information is something that many of us take for granted. With the donation of a device and 12 months of free data from O2 (6GB per month and unlimited calls and texts), the Community Calling campaign provides a lifeline for some of those individuals, who will also be able to access digital skills training at local support centres.

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 London, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol – providing a lifeline for those most affected by the pandemic, so we’re pleased to announce this expansion to Wales. This campaign reflects our broader commitment to be there for our customers and the wider community, whenever they need us.”

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 excited to be working with O2 to expand Community Calling to Cardiff and Swansea 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.”

Gift your phone

155,000 tonnes of electronic waste are being thrown away each year in the UK. At the same time, an average of four phones are sitting unused for every phone in use in the UK, so Community Calling is encouraging individuals and businesses in Wales to search their drawers and get involved by donating unused smartphones.

If you’d like to support the campaign and donate your old smartphones to Community Calling, click here.

It’s easy to sign up online – you’ll receive a free-post donation kit 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 or two month’s top-up for the beneficiaries.