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Press Release | 15 Jun 2021

Vodafone commits to connecting one million people living in digital poverty

UK-wide campaign backed by Lions, England and Saracens rugby star, Maro Itoje.

  • Vodafone launches initiative to connect one million people as the next step in the company’s long-term commitment to tackle digital exclusion.
  • Lions, England and Saracens rugby union player, Maro Itoje, joins the Vodafone campaign, saying it’s “vitally important to provide connectivity to people in crisis across the UK”.
  • For every Vodafone Together customer – existing and new – Vodafone will donate connectivity to someone who needs it with its new Buy One, Give One initiative.
  • SIM cards – providing connectivity for up to a year – will be distributed through The Trussell Trust’s network of 1,300 food bank centres.
  • Vodafone reveals details at annual news conference, alongside launch of EVO, a ground-breaking mobile offering which sets a new benchmark in flexibility and value for customers.

Vodafone today announced it will connect one million people living in digital poverty.

The commitment will be met between now and the end of 2022 through a range of programmes, including Vodafone’s Great British Tech Appeal and its new Buy One, Give One initiative for customers of Vodafone Together, Vodafone’s converged broadband and mobile package.

For every new and existing Vodafone Together household, Vodafone will provide a person in need with a SIM card, loaded with 20GB of data plus free calls and texts each month for up to a year. To ensure the connectivity reaches those who need it most, the SIMs will be distributed through The Trussell Trust’s UK network of food bank centres.

The pledge to connect one million people is the next stage of Vodafone’s long-term ambition to tackle digital exclusion.

Having a smartphone isn’t a luxury – for many, it’s a lifeline

(Emma Revie, CEO, The Trussell Trust)

Speaking at Vodafone’s Reinvent 2021 conference, Ahmed Essam, Vodafone’s UK CEO, said: “We are building a digital future for everyone – a future that’s sustainable, inclusive, and fair.”

Announcements at Vodafone’s Reinvent included:

  • The launch of EVO – Vodafone’s latest disruptive mobile offering which combines device financing, trade-in and flexible early upgrades to set a new benchmark for customer flexibility, value, and quality without compromise.
  • That Vodafone will eliminate all carbon emissions from its UK operations by 2027.
  • The availability of training packages to help 100,000 UK small businesses gain the skills and confidence to adopt and use digital tools.

Lions, England and Saracens Rugby Union star, Maro Itoje, will be partnering with Vodafone over the next three years to continue raising awareness of the digital divide and what can be done to tackle it.

“I’m extremely proud to be the ambassador for this brilliant new Vodafone initiative, helping give connectivity to many people in desperate need and raising awareness of this huge issue in our society,” said Maro.

“Vodafone’s work during the pandemic stood it apart – and it’s fantastic to see this work continuing with a long-term commitment to make this change for good and fix digital poverty together.”

The Trussell Trust, whose network distributed an unprecedented 2.5 million emergency food parcels over the last year, will use its 1,300 food bank centres across the UK to distribute the SIMs to people who could benefit most from the free connectivity. In the last five years, the need for food banks in the UK has risen by 128%, and research in 2020 found that 95% of people at food banks in The Trussell Trust network were destitute, meaning they were unable to afford to eat or stay warm and dry.

Connectivity is often a luxury these households cannot afford.

Ahmed Essam, Vodafone UK CEO, added: “Over the last year, people across the UK have realised just how important connectivity is, and the major role it plays in many aspects of our lives – work, play, education, healthcare and keeping in touch with those closest to us.

“We have supported many people since the start of the pandemic – the NHS, schoolchildren, people on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

“Today we are committing to helping one million more people get connected, and to developing the knowledge and confidence necessary in a society that increasingly demands a digital connection. Buy One, Give One puts tackling digital poverty, and doing the right thing, at the heart of our business.”

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “Over the last year, we’ve seen more people than ever struggling to afford the basics and forced to use food banks to get by. This isn’t right. We know households at food banks have, on average, only £57 a week after rent to cover their living costs, and one-in-five have no money coming in at all.

“In a society which depends on readily available internet connectivity to gain access to vital support, such as Universal Credit, having a smartphone isn’t a luxury – for many, it’s a lifeline.”

In addition, this summer Vodafone – in collaboration with Global, the media and entertainment group – will be launching a campaign to raise awareness of digital exclusion and calling on the UK public to help tackle the issue.

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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 also the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. As of June 2021, we have 5G in 340 locations across Europe – 100 in the UK and 240 across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. 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. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 15 UK towns and cities through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach.

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: www.vodafone.co.uk.

Vodafone UK Media Relations

Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 693 693

Email: ukmediarelations@vodafone.com

Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews

Website: https://newscentre.vodafone.co.uk

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

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