The number of people in need of support to stay connected digitally is rising significantly in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis, mobile operator Vodafone has said.
The network said its scheme with charity The Trussell Trust to provide free connectivity to people who are receiving support from food banks had seen rising demand in recent months.
Vodafone has committed to providing one million people currently living in digital exclusion with connectivity by the end of 2022 and has announced it had already done so for 250,000 through its charitable schemes, including its Everyone Connected initiatives.
The schemes see the mobile operator providing a sim card, 20GB of free data, free calls and texts each month for up to a year, providing people with the vital internet access they need to carry out many essential daily tasks.
“The pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have highlighted the scale of digital exclusion, and in particular its impact on the most vulnerable in society,” Vodafone UK chief executive Ahmed Essam said.
“Digital connectivity is essential to access work, education, healthcare, finances and to keep in touch with family and friends, yet 1.5 million households are living without internet access.
“Our everyone connected campaign puts tackling digital exclusion at the heart of our business. Our goal is to provide connectivity and support to those in society who need it most.
“By working with leading organisations like the Trussell Trust who can reach people in need, we aim to help as many people as possible stay connected.”
Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust said it was “simply not right that more and more people in the UK are being left with no option than to use a food bank”, adding that the cost-of-living crisis was “forcing increasing numbers of people” into “impossible decisions” where they have to cut back on essentials.
“Being online and connected is one of these essentials,” she said.
“Without internet access, people can’t manage their finances, apply for job opportunities, or stay connected with doctors, schools and loved ones.
“Our partnership with Vodafone is making a real difference to the support food banks are able to give people facing hardship – being connected is an essential for all of us to survive as well as thrive.”