The two companies are co-operating on a number of projects to help vulnerable people receive the devices, connectivity and training they need to benefit fully from today's digital society.
Jemma Waters, Head of Digital Impact and Inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group, believes her company and Vodafone have a close affinity when it comes to tackling the digital divide.
“We have a shared ethos and a common set of values, understanding that digital is an enabler of so many other things these days. We both want to make digital exclusion a thing of the past,” she says.
The two companies are co-operating on delivering the We Are Digital digital skills helpline, and Vodafone is providing free connectivity to some of Lloyds’ vulnerable customers.
Tech advice just a call away with the Digital Skills Helpline
For example, in Liverpool, Lloyds is working with the Local Authority to provide help to long-term unemployed people and other vulnerable groups in the form of devices, Vodafone-donated SIMs, advice and training delivered by local community partners, such as The Bread and Butter Thing, an organisation running food clubs. The project aims to support 3,500 people who’ve been identified as needing the most help.
“When our digital banking infrastructure was growing,” Jemma explains, “we noticed that some of our 13 million customers were struggling with how to access online banking – they lacked the necessary digital skills. We were seeing first-hand what digital challenges people were facing.”
This realisation led to the creation of Lloyds’ Consumer Digital Index, a database of anonymised, aggregated customer transaction data that gives an insight into people’s digital literacy.
'We've provided connectivity to 1 million people in need - now we want to reach 4 million'
Digital skills deficit
Given how much more of our lives is conducted online these days, Jemma argues that the definition of being ‘digitally disconnected’ needs to change from being offline for three months to being offline for a much shorter period.
And the digital skills gap within the workplace is growing, too, she says.
“59% of the workforce can’t do 20 fundamental digital skills at work – saving records on different devices, for example, or even setting and changing passwords.”
It’s a privilege to have a job like this and have partners behind us helping us make such a big difference
Some sectors are less digitally literate than others, for example, construction. But even some tech sector industries are surprisingly short on digital skills, says Jemma. This is why Lloyds set up its Academy in 2019, providing interactive webinars, a digital helpline for both small business and consumer customers.
“Over six years it’s been our core purpose to help Britain prosper, and that requires people to have equality when it comes to digital access and the digital capabilities to make the most of these technologies.”
The Digital Skills helpline, also supported by Vodafone and run by social impact company We Are Digital, gives callers basic advice on anything from how to send an email to booking an NHS appointment, from filling in online forms correctly, to protecting yourself against fraud.
Lloyds also provides customers with devices and connectivity – hence the obvious synergies with Vodafone, whose everyone.connected campaign has provided connectivity to more than a million people so far, and pre-loved devices to more than 13,000 people through its Great British Tech Appeal.
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Both Vodafone and Lloyds understand the critical importance of working with charity partners, says Jemma.
“We have no interest in duplication; it‘s important to understand and play to each other’s strengths, which is why we partner with Local Authorities, charities and community groups.”
Similarly, Vodafone has partnered with a number of charities, such as Good Things Foundation, Barnardo’s, the Trussell Trust, British Red Cross and the Refugee Council, to help distribute free SIMs and donated devices to digitally excluded people.
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On the digital skills front, it launched Hi Digital, in partnership with Independent Age, which offers courses to older people on how to get online safely. And through its business.connected initiative, Vodafone is aiming to provide digital skills training to 800,000 small businesses over three years with help from partners such as Enterprise Nation, Samsung and Cisco.
“We see more opportunity for collaboration in the small business space,” says Jemma, “and we’re looking to do more community engagement regionally.”
Through its digital inclusion work, Jemma estimates that Lloyds, with the help of partners like Vodafone, has helped 400,000 people so far.
“It’s a privilege to have a job like this and have partners behind us helping us make such a big difference,” Jemma concludes.
But she also lays down a challenge for all of us.
“We all know someone who is less digitally confident that we could help. Most of us probably have old devices that could go to a better home.
“Digital exclusion is the responsibility of all of us.”
You can ring the Digital Skills Helpline on 0800 987 4110.