We caught up with Good Things Foundation’s Group CEO, Helen Milner, to discuss her charity’s work tackling digital exclusion and it’s three-year strategic partnership with Vodafone.
Helen Milner says she has always been interested in the potential of technology to improve people’s lives, particularly society’s most marginalised.
She has spent a large part of her working life building relationships with local charities, community groups and non-governmental organisations which all share a desire to help those most in need.
It is this network of organisations – from homeless and refugee shelters, to community groups and charities such as Citizens Advice – that underpins Good Things Foundation, which Helen founded in 2011. The aim is to spread the benefits of tech across society, teach digital skills, and narrow the digital divide.
“Connectivity has become an essential not a luxury, particularly in a post-COVID world,” she tells Vodafone UK News.
“So how do we remove the barriers that prevent the most excluded from society gain access to these digital technologies?
“We believe local partnerships are fundamental.”
‘Foodbanks for data’
Lockdown saw many community centres close their doors, so Good Things Foundation had to “pivot massively”, she says, and take on the provision of devices and connectivity itself.
So, in partnership with Virgin Media O2, the charity launched the National Databank in 2021 – a network of centres where people can come to pick up free SIMs loaded with 6-12 months of free calls and data, learn new digital skills, and increasingly, access donated devices, too.
“Think of them like food banks for mobile data,” says Helen.
Good Things Foundation has now reached a major milestone – 1,000 National Databank Hubs are operating across the UK.