Press Release | 01 Dec 2022

Vodafone and Rankin join forces to raise awareness of the Digital Divide  

Series of royalty-free images highlights the “invisible” issue affecting millions in the UK.

  • Vodafone and photographer Rankin release ‘Faces of Disconnection’, a photo series showcasing the real stories behind digital disconnection.
  • Imagery released as Vodafone reaches the one million milestone in its everyone.connected campaign and extends its commitment to help a total of four million people cross the digital divide by 2025.
  • New consumer research* shows the issue is still not well understood, with nearly half of Brits (47%) admitting they aren’t familiar with digital exclusion and 60% unaware of the support available for those who are disconnected.
  • Vodafone increases availability of its free everyone.connected SIMs through a new pilot with The Trussell Trust and Citizens Advice’s ‘Help through Hardship’ helpline.
  • The collection will be available to view at a pop-up digital gallery on 4 December in London and as royalty-free images on free stock image website Pexels.  

Vodafone has partnered with world-renowned photographer Rankin to commission a series of images that depict the many faces of digital exclusion in the UK. The ‘Faces of Disconnection’ photo series, released today, comes as the brand reaches the milestone of donating connectivity to one million people living in digital exclusion and extends its commitment to help a total of four million people cross the digital divide by 2025.

Over 1.7 million households are digitally disconnected, with a million more at risk due to the cost-of-living crisis. But a new study from Vodafone has revealed that only 9% of people can confidently explain digital exclusion, and 60% think that it affects only those who can’t afford a connection.

In reality the issue is much wider. In fact, while those suffering financial hardship took up a large percentage of the one million connections donated by Vodafone (26%), the reality is much broader with digital inclusion (24%), refugees and asylum seekers (20%), homelessness (10%), young people (5%) following closely behind.

Social causes

‘Faces of Disconnection’ is based on real life stories, and depicts the top social causes that benefit from Vodafone’s everyone.connected programme. It features a range of people who can find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide including:

  • A Ukrainian refugee who has a working smartphone, but no connectivity so feels lonely and disconnected from home.
  • A young girl who has autism and feels overwhelmed by the online world and needs additional skills on how to navigate it.
  • A family which has been forced to choose between utilities as the cost of living rises.
  • A woman who lost connectivity after an abusive partner broke her phone.
  • A teenager without the digital skills to feel safe online.
  • An older man who feels daunted by the information on how to get online.
  • A man who has found himself homeless and in a shelter with no access to connectivity.

As well as consumer research, the study looked at how the issue is depicted online across the media, stock sites and search engines and found that the issue isn’t represented accurately. Almost 80% of images (78%) use only graphs, data, or cartoons to illustrate digital exclusion with only 22% of images online featuring real people. Where people and faces were included, only 2% depicted any emotion, further masking the impact digital disconnection can have on members of society. This portrayal exacerbates the ‘invisible’ nature of the issue.

Photographer, Rankin said: “When Vodafone asked me to help them highlight the faces of digital exclusion, I knew that I had to help. It’s such an invisible issue so I wanted to use my skills to bring to life the stories of the people affected and help change perceptions.

“The images are based on real-life situations, and not only showcase those who can be affected by digital exclusion but also the feeling that disconnection brings – be that loneliness, frustration or isolation.

“I hope the series provides some much-needed insight, as with more awareness and understanding and support from businesses like Vodafone, we can fix the issue once and for all.”

Ahmed Essam, Vodafone’s UK CEO, said: “We have put tackling the digital divide at the heart of our business and I am pleased to say that we have now donated connectivity to a million people in need.

“I am also proud to say we are now extending our commitment to help a total of four million people cross the digital divide by 2025 through the provision of connectivity and technology, affordable and accessible products and digital skills.

“Connectivity is a key part of everyday life, and those who aren’t part of the digital world are sadly too often invisible. We hope these images help drive understanding of the breadth and implications of the issue, and  encourage people to search Vodafone everyone.connected to find out more if they know someone who might need our help.”

Helen Milner OBE, Group CEO, Good Things Foundation, said: “Digital exclusion in the UK is still at unacceptable levels, which is why we are pleased to be working with Vodafone to extend their commitment to help a total of four million people cross the digital divide over the next three years.

“Together, in partnerships such as this one, we can help make the issue more visible and fix it for good.”

The images are freely available to the public, media outlets and organisations from today to use via free stock image site Pexels – with the aim of providing a more accurate portrayal of the issue. They will also be showcased at a free digital gallery exhibition at 45 Kings Mall, London, W6 9HW on 4 December from 10am to 4pm.

Crossing the divide

Vodafone’s everyone.connected campaign includes a range of partnerships and initiatives to help more people and businesses cross the digital divide, giving them the connectivity and skills they need to stay connected and participate fully in an increasingly digital society.


  • Building on its existing work with Good Things Foundation, which saw Vodafone pledge 24 million GB of data and to connect 200,000 people as part of the National Databank, the brand will enter a new three-year strategic partnership to support further delivery of the charity’s ambition to fix the digital divide in the UK. This will include helping expand its National Digital Inclusion Network to over 5,000 organisations by providing basic digital skills support to excluded people in local communities across the UK.
  • A new pilot announced today will get free connectivity into the hands of the people who need it most at the time when they are most vulnerable. Working with the Trussell Trust and Citizens Advice, Vodafone will offer SIMs to those calling the Help through Hardship helpline, which is delivered in partnership by the two charities and provides advice and support to people who are worried about money and struggling to afford the essentials.

Click on the everyone.connected link to support the campaign or find out how to access help.

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from Vodafone by following us on Twitter and signing up for News Centre website notifications.

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors

Actors have been used to represent real people and their stories.

Case studies available on request.


*Consumer research was carried out between 16/11/2022 – 17/11/2022 across 2,000 UK respondents.

**The study into how the digital divide is represented in imagery on UK websites was undertaken in November 2022. Multiple searches using phrases ‘digital exclusion’, ‘digital divide’, ‘digital poverty’ and ‘digitally disconnected’ were used with data collated from:

  • search engines
  • stock image sites
  • online news sites.

Over 2,317 images depicting the digital divide were recorded across 44 websites. A review was then conducted of each image against set criteria.


In addition to providing free skills and connectivity, Vodafone has a range of products to help keep people connected. This includes its recently launched, Vodafone Essentials Broadband tariff – available to those on UTC and other benefits for just £12 a month, as well as its mobile social tariff, VOXI for Now which gives six months unlimited 5G data, calls and texts for just £10 a month, cancel anytime.

Vodafone is also offering its support to small business owners to help them mitigate rising costs and stay connected to customers. As part of its extended everyone.connected commitment to help four million people, and to add to its recent offer of 12 months free award-winning business-grade broadband on a 24-month plan, its business.connected initiative will upskill the digital capabilities of 800,000 small businesses over the next three years.

Vodafone is extending its support to existing everyone.connected customers who have finished their six months of free data with a 7GB for £5 Pay As You Go bundle to ensure they stay connected at an affordable rate.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK, please visit:

Vodafone UK Media Relations

Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 693 693


Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews


Vodafone Limited

Registered Office: Vodafone House, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN

Registered in England No: 1471587