Get Online Week: How Virgin Media O2 is helping people improve their digital skills

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
19 October 2022

More than five million people in the UK are unable to carry out simple online tasks like sending emails or using the internet. In response, Virgin Media O2 has teamed up with digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to help people improve their digital skills with hundreds of free sessions for Get Online Week.

During Get Online Week (17-23 October), hundreds of community centres across the UK will hold free sessions to help people with low or no digital skills to get online. Virgin Media O2 Business will support these free sessions – and others throughout the year – by allowing colleagues to use their five volunteering days to deliver them.

Virgin Media O2 Business' team of more than 2,000 employees can volunteer through the Connect More programme to become a digital skills trainer and the company will work with its network of public sector partners to pair volunteers with those in need.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

It comes as research by Virgin Media O2 finds a lack of digital skills is costing the economy £12.8 billion in productivity, with 5.4 million people unable to carry out simple digital tasks such as using a computer to write a letter or send an email, despite wanting to.

The Get Online Week sessions are designed to help people learn how to use the internet to carry out essential tasks such as: emailing, accessing online services including booking medical appointments, managing their money online, applying for jobs, taking part in virtual interviews, or accessing online education or training programmes.

Jo Bertram, managing director at Virgin Media O2 Business, said: “From preventing people booking GP appointments online right through to locking them out of job applications and promotions, the impact of the digital skills gap on society and the economy is staggering: more than a third of people say it’s already held back their earning potential. No one sector – public or private – can tackle this inequality alone, but working together, we can pool our strengths and have a bigger, better impact. And this isn’t just about funding, it’s about real ‘boots on the ground’ support.

“At Virgin Media O2 Business, we have both a strong network of public sector customers, and a team of thousands of our own people who are ready and able to make a difference. So, with Connect More we’re joining the dots: putting time and resource behind an initiative that mobilises our people to deliver free digital skills training and make a real impact on everyday lives and communities. And we’re now calling on the public sector to help us deliver it: by connecting us with those in most need of support.”

The impact of a digital skill deficit 

Digital skills are important for surviving in the modern world, with so many services now available online. But they’re also a big part of employability. Virgin Media O2’s research found that nearly a third of British people believe they have been passed over for a promotion or pay rise because of a lack of skills. A quarter of people earning less than £12,570 a year say that they think their skills would be inadequate to secure a similarly paid role if they were made redundant. And a fifth of people say that they need improved digital skills so they can get a job with a higher salary.

A lack of digital skills is also having an impact on the nation’s health, with two thirds of people saying it’s contributing to their stress and anxiety. And almost half say it’s affecting their ability to look after their mental health and wellbeing – due to not being able to book online medical appointments or apply for benefits.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Tackling the digital divide

Virgin Media O2’s support of Get Online Week is part of its three-year partnership with Good Things Foundation. It has donated £2 million to help disadvantaged people across the UK to get online and gain vital digital skills.

This builds on the National Databank initiative, which Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation launched in 2021. The National Databank is like a foodbank, but for free mobile data, texts and calls. Virgin Media O2 is donating more than 61 million GB of free O2 data to the National Databank to help people stay connected.

Virgin Media O2’s partnership with Good Things Foundation forms part of its new sustainability strategy, the Better Connections Plan, and is one of the ways it will reach its goals to improve the digital skills and confidence of two million people by the end of 2025.

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.