Vodafone and The Trussell Trust to distribute pre-loaded SIM cards through its 1,300 food banks, including Stamford and Oundle, Rutland, Deepings and Bourne, to tackle digital poverty
SIM cards, loaded with data and free calls and texts, are to be distributed with food bank packages.
Vodafone says it aims to connect one million people in the country, who cannot afford to get online, as part of initiatives to tackle the problem of digital poverty and digital exclusion.
Households who are unable to fund or don't have access to good quality internet provision can often find themselves quickly and easily excluded, says research, particularly when it comes to education and employment opportunities.
The mobile phone network is pairing up with food bank charity The Trussell Trust to distribute the pre-loaded SIM cards, each providing connectivity for up to a year, through its network of 1,300 food banks and food distribution centres, including many in Kent.
The SIM cards will be pre-loaded with 20GB of data plus free calls and texts.
The Trussell Trust, which distributed an unprecedented 2.5 million emergency food parcels over the last year, will use its network to identify those people who could benefit most from the free connectivity.
In the last five years, the need for food banks in the UK has risen by 128%, says the charity.
Research in 2020 found that 95% of people at its food banks were destitute, meaning they were unable to afford to eat or stay warm and dry.
Connectivity, it says, is a luxury most of those people cannot afford.
Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “Over the last year, we’ve seen more people than ever struggling to afford the basics and forced to use food banks to get by. This isn’t right.
"We know households at food banks have, on average, only £57 a week after rent to cover their living costs, and one in five have no money coming in at all.
"In a society which depends on readily available internet connectivity to gain access to vital support such as Universal Credit, having a smartphone isn’t a luxury – for many, it’s a lifeline.”
The commitment to support one million people in need of digital support will be met between now and the end of 2022, says Vodafone.
This will be done through a range of programmes including its Great British Tech Appeal and a new ‘Buy One, Give One’ initiative, through which it will donate connectivity to someone who needs it for every new and existing Vodafone Together household.
Ahmed Essam, Vodafone UK CEO, added: “Over the last year, people across the UK have realised just how important connectivity is, and the major role it plays in many aspects of our lives – work, play, education, healthcare and keeping in touch with those closest to us.
“Today we are committing to helping one million more people get connected, and to developing the knowledge and confidence necessary in a society that increasingly demands a digital connection. ‘Buy One, Give One’ puts tackling digital poverty, and doing the right thing, at the heart of our business.”