Vodafone commits to connecting 1 million people living in digital poverty campaign backed by Lions, England and Saracens player, Maro Itoje

Vodafone today announced it will connect one million people living in digital poverty.

The commitment will be met between now and the end of 2022 through a range of programmes, including Vodafone’s Great British Tech Appeal and its new ‘Buy One, Give One’ initiative for customers of Vodafone Together, Vodafone’s converged broadband and mobile package.

For every new and existing Vodafone Together household, Vodafone will provide a person in need with a SIM card, loaded with 20GB of data plus free calls and texts each month for up to a year. To ensure the connectivity reaches those who need it most, the SIMs will be distributed through the Trussell Trust’s UK network of food bank centres.

The pledge to connect one million people is the next stage of Vodafone’s long-term ambition to tackle digital exclusion.

Speaking at Vodafone’s Reinvent conference, Ahmed Essam, CEO of Vodafone UK, said: “We are building a digital future for everyone – a future that’s sustainable, inclusive, and fair.”

Announcements at Vodafone’s Reinvent included:

· The launch of EVO – Vodafone’s latest disruptive mobile offering which combines device financing, trade-in and flexible early upgrades to set a new benchmark for customer flexibility, value, and quality without compromise.

· That Vodafone will eliminate all carbon emissions from its UK operations by 2027.

· The availability of training packages to help 100,000 UK small businesses gain the skills and confidence to adopt and use digital tools.

Lions, England and Saracens Rugby Union star, Maro Itoje, will be partnering with Vodafone over the next three years to continue raising awareness of the digital divide and what can be done to tackle it.

“I’m extremely proud to be the ambassador for this brilliant new Vodafone initiative, helping give connectivity to many people in desperate need and raising awareness of this huge issue in our society,” said Maro. “Vodafone’s work during the pandemic stood it apart – and it’s fantastic to see this work continuing with a long-term commitment to make this change for good and fix digital poverty together.”

The Trussell Trust, whose network distributed an unprecedented 2.5 million emergency food parcels over the last year, will use its 1,300 food bank centres across the UK to distribute the SIMs to 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%, and research in 2020 found that 95% of people at food banks in the Trussell Trust network were destitute, meaning they were unable to afford to eat or stay warm and dry. Connectivity is often a luxury these households cannot afford.

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.

“We have supported many people since the start of the pandemic – the NHS, schoolchildren, people on Jobseeker’s Allowance. “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.”

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.”

In addition, this summer Vodafone - in collaboration with Global, the media and entertainment group - will be launching a campaign to raise awareness of digital exclusion and calling on the UK public to help tackle the issue.