Vulnerable families without the internet to get free phones

A borough’s most vulnerable will get free revamped phones to help them stay connected in a pilot scheme which could go nationwide.

Families are encouraged to donate their mobiles for people who are not getting information during the coronavirus epidemic under the scheme  ‘Community Calling’ – a partnership between O2 and Hubbub.

The trial will initially see 800 refurbished smartphones and O2 Pay as you Go SIM cards distributed to ‘digitally excluded’ people in Southwark.

The list of households has been put together organisations in Southwark. Their clients range from the elderly, those in low-income households, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers.

The project will invite members of the Southwark community and surrounding areas to donate unused smartphones which will then be data-wiped, cleaned and refurbished by Recono.me ready for redistribution. O2 is donating an additional 300 handsets alongside providing pay as you go SIMs and top up to be used with the donated devices.

Once complete, O2 and Hubbub will share the data from the trial to help inform recycling and re-use initiatives in other cities across the UK.

Tracey Herald, Head of Partnerships and Social impact at O2 said – “Connectivity is a lifeline for so many at this time – and with so many smart devices sitting in drawers at home, this project provides the perfect opportunity to dust them off for a good cause. The Southwark community has been particularly affected by the recent pandemic, so we’re working in partnership with Hubbub, the local council and community groups to ensure we can distribute these devices to those who need them most. The trial will help us tackle digital exclusion and help the environment too.’

Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub said – “Community Calling offers a simple way to get unused smartphones to people who need them most during the current pandemic, allowing them to access essential services, to educate their kids or to stay in touch with loved ones. Plus it has the bonus environmental benefit of avoiding electrical waste going to landfill or incineration. We’re trialling the approach with O2 in Southwark and if successful, we’ll look to replicate it elsewhere in the UK.”

Councillor Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Health and Councillor for Old Kent Road Ward said – “At a time when we can’t physically visit our friends and families, many people are relying on their phones and computers as their only point of contact with others. This is especially tough on those who are vulnerable and have to isolate completely, and those who cannot afford, or are unable to get access to, a mobile phone or a computer. Our mental health needs protecting as much as our physical health right now, and this project provides a great way to combat loneliness and keep people connected.”

Krzysztof Mikata-Pralat, CEO at Community Southwark said – “During this pandemic we are working with front-line organisations serving to support the most vulnerable and working with Hubbub and O2 to help deliver this project will ensure that many members in the borough will be more digitally included. Being able to connect with family, friends or your community is a vital lifeline during this time and we are proud to be a part of this project” 

If you’d like to support the trial and donate your old smartphones to the Community Calling project, visit http://www.hubbub.org.uk/communitycalling/ for more details.


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