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With the cost of living crisis deepening and around two million UK households at risk of digital exclusion, Virgin Media O2 is providing access to free mobile data for people in need by piloting the National Databank scheme in 10 O2 stores across the UK.
The National Databank, founded by Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, describe it to be like a foodbank but for free mobile data, texts, and calls.
People can now access the National Databank directly on the high street stores and get 20GB of free O2 data per month for up to six months – enough for around 220 hours of internet browsing per month – so they can get online and stay in touch with loved ones.
According to Virgin Media O2, the stores taking part in the pilot are located in towns and cities where the free data will help those most in need. This includes communities where people are most likely to be digitally excluded or places where people have not been able to access the National Databank in their area before.
The areas confirmed to be taking part include Ballymena, Broadstairs (Thanet Westwood Cross) Colchester, Hastings, Hull (Jameson Street), Norwich, Newport, Perth, Plymouth, and Stockton-on-Tees (Teesside Retail Park).
Those eligible can claim the support by going to one of the participating stores and asking an O2 employee, who has been trained to use the National Databank’s platform, for a 20GB data voucher.
As part of the campaign, O2 will also be gifting an additional one million GB of free O2 data via an ‘O2 Christmas SIM card’.
The special SIM cards are available in O2 stores nationwide and online, while stocks last, helping those who need it with access to 7GB of free O2 data. The SIM cards can also be gifted.
Gareth Turpin, chief commercial at Virgin Media O2, said: “We’re stepping up our support during the cost-of-living crisis to help even more people stay connected this Christmas.
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“It’s now going to be easier than ever for those in need to access the National Databank directly on the High Street via our O2 stores, so they can get online and connect to essential services – from medical appointments to applying for jobs.
“And with our additional one million GB of free data available via special Christmas SIM Cards, Virgin Media O2 is helping more people get the data they need.”
Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of free O2 data to the initiative by the end of 2025.
Helen Milner OBE, group chief executive at the Good Things Foundation, 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.
“With two million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today – and 10 million adults lacking the most basic digital skills, everyone needs to do even more to build a movement for digital inclusion that leaves no one behind.”
Ms Milner continued: “This underpins our 2022 to 2025 strategy, making sure we go further to fix the digital divide – for good.
“This extra support is a perfect example of industry innovation making a huge difference to people’s lives, and will mean more practical help is available for those on low incomes to get online and access the endless benefits of digital connectivity.”
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