With Christmas just around the corner, the digital divide is sure to be felt more than ever in underprivileged households

Back in April, statistics from Ofcom showed that 1.5 million homes in the UK are currently without internet access, leaving millions of people cut off from engaging with the digital world. 
In the post-Covid era, this digital handicap is more pronounced than ever, with thousands of products and services now available online that are otherwise very difficult to access. This is even true of vital services, such as government and healthcare services, 
That is why, back in July, the recently merged Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) teamed up with the Good Things Foundation to launch the first ever National Databank. Operating through the Good Things Foundation’s 5,000 community groups, the project allows community groups to access free data voucher codes and SIM cards to help meet their digital needs. 
At the time, VMO2 pledged to donate £12.5 million-worth of O2 connectivity, totalling around 7.5 million GB of data to the National Databank, as well as donating £500,000 to the Good Things Foundation to operate the project. 
Now, with the Christmas period looming, VMO2 has expanded the program, pledging to gift an additional 10GB of O2 data to the Databank for every plan purchased between the 1st of November and the 31st of January. 
In total, VMO2 expects to triple its original data donation, aiming to help around 255,000 people nationwide. 
“With many millions of people still facing digital exclusion, now is the time to come together and close the gap on digital inequality, and build a lasting legacy to help end data poverty for good. The success of the pilot scheme has shown us just how important the National Databank is to those who need it – and as it rolls out across the UK, we want to do even more,” said VMO2 CEO Lutz Schuler. “Through our data pledge this Christmas, we’re calling on our customers to help us triple our original donation, and connect the disconnected when they need it most.”
In addition to the data pledge, VMO2 will be increasing the size of the data vouchers available from 7GB to 15GB. 
“Having sufficient data in our increasingly digital society is not a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential. With Christmas coming up and many set to spend the festive period alone, being connected to loved ones and to spend less on bills could make the world of difference,” said Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive at the Good Things Foundation. “The National Databank – which can be thought of as a ‘food bank for data’ – is already doing great work to bridge the digital divide. We’re very proud to be rolling out nationwide and we’re delighted that Virgin Media O2 is upping its data pledge this Christmas. Together, we can come together to help address the issue of data poverty in the UK once and for all.”
In related news, VMO2 announced last week that they were close to completing their national gigabit-capable broadband network rollout, with over 90% of homes across its network now capable of achieving gigabit speeds. 
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