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Virgin Media O2 & Hubbub unveil 400,000 device tech lending scheme
Wed, 3rd Apr 2024

The Tech Lending Community scheme, a joint initiative by Virgin Media O2 and Hubbub has announced plans to provide hundreds of tablets and smartphones to support underprivileged individuals across the UK with a significant 400,000 device lending scheme. The programme, originating in 2022, aims to resolve issues of digital exclusion and electronic waste by providing second-hand devices to those in need and giving technology items a new lease of life, rather than having them become landfill waste.

The comprehensive initiative comprises multiple facets. Over 500 tablets and smartphones will be donated to homelessness charities, Centrepoint, and Thames Reach. Furthermore, consistent funding and support will be given to Refuge, a charity dedicated to the welfare of women and children who have encountered domestic abuse. The donated tablets and smartphones will utilise free O2 mobile data from the National Databank, established by Virgin Media O2 and Global Things Foundation, allowing everyone to be connected online.

Once delivered, these charity partners will distribute the devices to service users across the nation. This will enable recipients to enhance their digital skills, find employment, locate food banks, confirm medical appointments and maintain communication with relatives and friends. Additionally, Refuge, which obtained 250 tablets from this initiative last year, will continue to get support and funds to sustain its device lending agenda. Reconome is also backing this project by sourcing, eradicating data from, and refurbishing second-hand devices.

The Tech Lending Community scheme forms an integral part of Virgin Media O2’s Better Connections Plan, contributing significantly to the objective of connecting one million digitally excluded people using free and affordable connectivity and services by the year 2025. Since its inception, the programme has already loaned tablets to more than 750 individuals for up to six months at approximately 50 community centres, temporary accommodation facilities, or refuge sites countrywide.

Representatives from the initiative have spoken highly of the immense impact of the plan on individuals. Dana Haidan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media O2, commented, "Having data and devices can be a lifeline for people in need, enabling them to access essential websites, from applying for jobs, to accessing medical appointments, and to stay in touch with loved ones. That's why initiatives like The Tech Lending Community scheme and National Databank are vital in addressing digital exclusion and data poverty, and help to transform people's lives in communities across the UK."

Jodi Leedham from Refuge expressed her gratitude for the scheme, stating, “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Hubbub and Virgin Media O2 once again to support women in our services by providing safe access to technology. Many of the women we help have experienced technological and economic abuse, but through this vital program, we empower them and give them the tools they need to confidently utilise technology and navigate the digital world safely. By doing so, we can support survivors to reclaim their independence and rebuild their lives on their own terms."

The scheme, which is also making a significant contribution to environmental sustainability by recycling used devices, exemplifies an innovative approach to addressing digital inequality in the UK while also tackling the pressing issue of electronic waste.