How Virgin Media Business is tackling digital exclusion in Manchester

Virgin Media Business
Virgin Media Business
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
19 January 2022

Homeless shelters, schools and local people are benefiting from a multi-million pound investment to tackle digital inequality in Greater Manchester, according to a new report published by Virgin Media Business.

The report provides an update on Virgin Media Business’ work in Greater Manchester through its social value programme, and shares its ambitious plans for the next four years. 

Virgin Media Business’ social value programme began back in 2020, with the rollout of the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme across Greater Manager. This included supporting Greater Manchester’s Digital blueprint with a number of investments in social value initiatives such as the creation of 20 apprenticeships based in Greater Manchester, and investment in digital and STEM skills for young people.

“In Greater Manchester, we have a £5 billion digital ecosystem and we’re putting people at the heart of our digital ambitions. We are well known for doing things differently and collaboration is integral to what we do.” Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said. “This programme has brought local and central government together for a common goal, enhancing our digital capacity and helping our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.

“It highlights the possibilities when private and public sector work side by side to level up our communities – from towns and cities to our most rural places and spaces, aligning digital ambitions to ensure that anyone, whatever their age, location, or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Virgin Media Business and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority have connected 15 homeless shelters, community centres and charities to its network since the project began and is providing free connectivity for local people. Another six sites are due to be connected this year.

Local people have already been benefitting from being able to access online services such as banking and GP appointments. Plus, they have the opportunity to develop digital skills and learn how to use the internet safely. It’s also given younger people more places to get online and complete their school work. 

During the height of 2020’s lockdown, Virgin Media Business supported the Greater Manchester Technology Fund, providing 567 school children with digital kit bundles so that they could continue learning when schools were closed.

Virgin Media Business also gave financial support to help tackle rough sleeping, donating £100,000 to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity’s “A Bed Every Night” programme, funding emergency bed spaces and additional assistance for those currently experiencing homelessness.

Jo Bertram, Managing Director of Business and Wholesale at Virgin Media O2 said: “Our work in Greater Manchester is not only transforming connectivity across the region – but is also helping to transform lives for the better, too. In partnership with the GMCA, we are supercharging communities and supporting those most at risk of digital exclusion.

“Whether it’s through funding projects to help those experiencing homelessness, investing in children’s futures or upgrading community connections, we’re committed to doing more for the people of Greater Manchester today and in future.”

Download the full report from Virgin Media Business to find out more.