A new initiative to provide devices and connectivity is launching in Cardiff and Swansea. Housing Association Hafod and Swansea Council for Voluntary Services (SCVS) are aiming to distribute 1,500 smartphones and tablets to individuals without digital access, as part of the Community Campaign set up and run by O2 and environmental charity Hubbub.
Hafod in Cardiff and SCVS in Swansea have received the first smartphones and are encouraging local businesses and individuals to donate more devices, which will be data-wiped and cleaned before being redistributed. The two organisations have already started identifying those with unmet digital needs, due to lack of access, affordability, confidence and skills. The beneficiaries will be given the much-needed devices to help them connect with loved ones and essential networks of support during the ongoing pandemic and thereafter.
A new report by Ofcom reveals that 13% of the Welsh population do not have access to the internet at home1. That’s an estimated 400,000 people in Wales for whom it’s a challenge to connect with family, friends and online support and information, something that many of us take for granted. With the donation of a device and 12 months of free data from O2 (6GB per month and unlimited calls and texts), the Community Calling campaign provides a lifeline for some of those individuals, who will also be able to access digital skills training at local support centres.
Jamie Smith, Director of Research and Innovation at Hafod, said: “We have seen the digital divide growing in our communities, both before and especially during the pandemic. Access to technology is an enabler of leading a good life for many and for others a way of simply not falling behind and doing what’s essential to function. That’s why schemes like Community Calling are so valuable and we’re delighted to be partnering with Hubbub and O2 on making it a reality in Wales and for the customers we serve. We know it will make a big difference and we’re ready to get started – we have a brilliant team of Neighbourhood Coaches and Support Workers involved.”
Amanda Carr, Director of Swansea Council for Voluntary Service, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Hubbub and O2 to bring Community Calling to Swansea. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen increasing evidence that households who are digitally excluded have struggled to access critical information, support and advice at such a difficult time. Community Calling, along with other schemes, will begin to change that, giving access to the world of online support to those that really need it, but who haven’t been able to afford it. We ask everyone to check in the bottom of their kitchen drawers for smart phones that they aren’t using anymore and donate them – they’ll make such a difference!”
The roll out of Community Calling in South Wales comes after a successful launch which has seen 3,000 smartphones donated in London, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol, helping people to get connected in the wake of rising inequality, poverty and employment challenges.
One beneficiary of the Community Calling campaign is Redia, who SVCS knows through The Better Welcome to Swansea project which helps to welcome and support asylum seekers and refugees to reduce isolation, encourage active participation, promote well-being and integration.
Redia moved to the UK in March 2020 just as the pandemic was beginning to unfold, which made it difficult to meet new people and make friends, and she also had concerns about her children not being able to go to school. She says that having her new smartphone is vital in giving her access to important information and services as she settles into her new life in Swansea.
Mark Evans, Chief Executive of O2, said: “Connectivity has been vital to keeping the country running during the pandemic, but if you’re unable to get online you’re likely to miss out on a lot of support. We’ve already seen the positive impact Community Calling has had on vulnerable people in London, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol – providing a lifeline for those most affected by the pandemic, so we’re pleased to announce this expansion to Wales. This campaign reflects our broader commitment to be there for our customers and the wider community, whenever they need us.”
Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub, said: “It’s been heart-warming to see the positive impact receiving a smartphone through the Community Calling project has already had on so many people’s lives. Being connected to loved ones and accessing essential services is easily taken for granted, but is still not a reality for too many people. We’re excited to be working with O2 to expand Community Calling to Cardiff and Swansea to get more people connected and prevent unnecessary electrical waste. We’re calling on individuals and businesses with spare smartphones to donate them to somebody who needs a device to stay connected at this difficult time.”
Alyson Pugh, Cabinet Member for Supporting Communities at Swansea Council, said: “We know that the current pandemic has made it especially hard for people who are digitally excluded to stay connected to friends, family and communities, as well as accessing support services. We are very pleased to be working with Hubbub, O2 and our partners across Swansea to deliver the Community Calling scheme to help improve digital inclusion. The scheme will provide a great opportunity to increase digital inclusion including access to devices and development of digital skills and training. I’d like to encourage anyone that has an unused smartphone or any organisations that might have unused smart phones to donate them to this scheme where they will be wiped of data, cleaned, repackaged and gifted to someone who would really benefit from it.”