Bridging the digital divide: Virgin Money teams up with National Databank
Virgin Money is boosting the support available to people living in digital poverty by introducing the National Databank programme into more of its stores across the UK.
The National Databank, founded by Virgin Media O2 and leading digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation, is like a foodbank but provides free mobile data, texts and calls for people in need.
Following a six-month pilot programme, Virgin Money has now increased the number of stores taking part in the National Databank from 16 to 33, and plans to introduce the service to more stores in the future.
The latest towns and cities to benefit from the data support service are: Barnsley, Bradford, Carlisle, Castleford, Doncaster, Dundee, Glasgow, Greenock, Hartlepool, Hull, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Oldham, Rochdale, St Helens and Stockton.
Lyn Rose, head of customer care and stores at Virgin Money, said: “Many of us take for granted how easy it is to use digital tools to complete everyday tasks such as paying bills, comparing insurance premiums and even chatting with friends and family online. However, for people living in digital poverty, getting online isn’t quite as straightforward or affordable and we want to change that. Over the past six months we have seen first-hand the positive difference that free monthly data can have on people in need, and driven by our purpose of making you happier about money, we are expanding our work with Good Things Foundation and Virgin Media O2 to help more people get online and out of digital poverty.”
Through the National Databank, people that suffer from digital poverty can request a voucher from a local community support organisation, take it to a participating Virgin Money store and pick up an O2 sim card loaded with 20GB of free data – enough for around 220 hours of internet browsing per month. The free data allowance renews every month for six months. Specially trained Virgin Money hosts will help users to register their sim cards, show them how to get online and offer tips on how to stay safe when browsing.
To support people that are impacted by digital poverty but living outside of these areas, Virgin Money has also worked closely with Good Things Foundation to provide specialist training for its customer care team to help people identify and contact alternative National Databank sites nearby, whether it is a Virgin Money store or not.
Colin Patterson, cluster manager at Virgin Money, shared his experiences of working with the National Databank and seeing the positive impact the programme has on people in need after supporting a member of the community who had been directed to the store by a local phone shop.
Colin said: “We recently received a visit from a gentleman who was in the middle of searching for work and somewhere permanent to live but was finding it difficult as looking at rental sites, calling letting agents, searching online job sites and checking emails all takes up a lot of data and unfortunately it had drained all that he could afford that month.
“When the man came to us, he explained that he runs out of data regularly and as a result he was missing out on some key job opportunities. We soon reassured him that we could help and one of our specially trained colleagues got to work setting everything up so we could issue the SIM and activate the data, calls and texts. Within minutes everything was sorted, and the gentleman was really appreciative and excited that he could continue his search and hopefully secure a new role. He also mentioned that the free international calling allowance he now gets every month is going to make a huge difference to his wellbeing as he has family living overseas and he hadn’t spoken to them in several months. He couldn't wait to give them a call.
“This was the first time I had seen the National Databank in action from introduction to implementation. It was heart-warming to see first-hand that something as simple as free data for those who otherwise wouldn't have digital access can have such a positive impact.”
Visit Virgin Money to find your nearest store. To find out more about Good Things Foundation or to locate the nearest community organisation taking part in the National Databank programme, visit: https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/databank/.