Viewpoint | 24 Jun 2022

How Vodafone’s everyone.connected campaign is tackling digital exclusion

Nicki Lyons, Vodafone's UK Director of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability, explains how the company is fulfilling its mission to connect the disconnected and support vulnerable people.

It was a great pleasure speaking with other digital leaders at the 17th National Digital Conference this week. The theme, ‘Digital is for Everyone’, addressed a subject I feel passionate about – tackling the digital divide.

Around 1.5 million households in the UK don’t have internet access – either mobile or fixed line – and around 12 million lack the digital skills necessary to make the most of our online, connected world. This digital exclusion exacerbates poverty and sees people slipping further behind.

So in response to this serious challenge, we launched our everyone.connected campaign, with the ambitious aim to connect a million digitally excluded people by the end of 2022. I’m pleased to report that we’re well on the way to achieving that.

The campaign has reached more than 350,000 people in need so far. And it’s gratifying to note that everyone.connected has just been shortlisted in the Mobile Industry Awards 2022 ‘CSR Initiative of the Year’ category.

But we also realise affordability is an issue for many people struggling to cope with the economic impact of the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis. Earlier this year, our youth brand VOXI launched VOXI For Now, a low-cost unlimited 5G data, calls and texts tariff for those on benefits, and we’ve refreshed our Vodafone Basics range of lower-cost tariffs, too.

Vodafone and The Trussell Trust report rising need for free connectivity due to the cost-of-living crisis

Vodafone’s everyone.connected campaign reaches 250,000 milestone.

Three key initiatives underpin everyone.connected:


Any UK-registered charity working with digitally excluded people can apply for free SIMs loaded with 20GB of data a month, plus unlimited calls and texts, for six months. More than 1,600 charities have signed up to the scheme so far, and many are using the free SIMs to ensure refugees from Ukraine and other countries have access to connectivity. We’re also working with Good Things Foundation to support 200,000 people through its National Databank.

Helping Ukrainian refugee kids through the power of reading

Vodafone's charities.connected free SIMs initiative is helping to connect digitally excluded people with the support of its 1,500-plus charity partners.

Buy One Give One

For every Vodafone Together customer, we’re working with Trussell Trust and their network of 1,300 food banks to give a digitally excluded person free connectivity for up to a year. The scheme has given connectivity to around 40,000 people so far.

Buy One, Give One: Help give connectivity to someone in need

Around 1.5 million UK households have no access to reliable connectivity. At Vodafone, we're committed to changing this.

Great British Tech Appeal

We encourage the UK public to donate smartphones and tablets they no longer use. We collect them for free, wipe them clean of data, add six months connectivity and distribute them re-boxed via 290 of Barnardo’s centres to reach young people and families in need. We recently extended the Appeal specifically to help Ukrainian refugees through a partnership with the Refugee Council. So far we’ve collected 18,500 devices and distributed 10,000 to young people and families.

Vodafone extends Tech Appeal with Refugee Council

Vodafone today announced it is working with leading charity Refugee Council to distribute smartphones, devices and connectivity to refugees, including those fleeing Ukraine.

Skills gap

I’m really proud of the way we live our purpose as a company, but I’m also sometimes daunted by the scale of the problem. Connectivity is an essential these days – so much of our lives is lived online, from government services to doctor’s consultations. But it’s only one piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

People also need devices. Which is why our Great British Tech Appeal is so important.

But perhaps, most importantly, people also need the skills and the confidence to use connected technology to the full.

If you’ve grown up with the internet, smartphones, apps and social media, the digital world is second nature and easy to navigate. For those who haven’t – yes there was a time before smartphones and the internet – this new world can seem baffling and even a little frightening.

This is why we think improving digital skills is an essential component of our everyone.connected campaign. We’ve been working with Barnardo’s and Age UK to give nearly 5,000 young and older people access to digital skills training.

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Our Digital Parenting Magazine has been offering practical advice to parents for a decade now, on everything from how to stay safe and secure online, to how to talk to kids about gender identity.

Our News Centre’s Smart Living section is choc-full of practical tips and tricks to help people make the most of their technology in a safe, fun and fulfilling way.

And we’ll soon be launching a new section aimed at helping older people navigate the digital world and make the most of the wonderful things it has to offer.

Working together

At the conference it was heartening to hear from other private sector colleagues just how much big business is already doing to address the digital divide. We are doing our bit, but I think there is a really important role for Government to play here, too.

To tackle these huge societal issues – which the current cost of living crisis is only exacerbating – we need to take a holistic approach, involving all stakeholders, from schools to housing authorities, businesses to poverty alleviation charities. And I think the Government is best placed to act as a cheerleading co-ordinator, as well as an infrastructure investor.

Government funding is disparate and needs to be brought under the digital divide umbrella, because we’re only going to solve this problem and close the digital divide once and for all if we all work together.


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