How Virgin Media O2 is tackling data poverty

A man working from home, on the phone and using a laptop
Anchiy/Getty Images
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 27 July 2021

I’m so proud of Virgin Media O2 and its purpose-driven and community-first approach to business. They team at Virgin Media O2 live and breathe purposeful leadership. The team has partnered with Good Things Foundations to launch the first ever National Databank - providing free mobile data to tackle data poverty. 

The National Databank will provide free data for community groups to distribute across the UK, including the most digitally deprived areas. The databank acts as a collaborative and community-led platform that provides free mobile data, and the team is calling on other operators to support. I love seeing competitors collaborate for the benefit of communities – purposeful business at its best! 

More than seven million people across the UK lack access mobile data or broadband at home. From home-schooling to tackling loneliness - the pandemic shown us just how important it is to stay connected and make sure everyone can benefit from digital inclusion.

Recognising the role that mobile operators need to play in tackling data poverty, Virgin Media O2 launched the National Databank as a long-term solution at a national level.

The initiative was backed up by insight from a Local Trust report, which showed the important role the community plays in reaching people who face data poverty. As a next step, the report identified the need to develop inclusive solutions at scale – including data sharing and pooling through schemes like a national data bank.

Staircases with the words Straight Up on at the Virgin Media office in Reading
Image from Virgin Media

By the end of 2023, Virgin Media O2 will have donated £12.5m worth of O2 connectivity (7.5 million GB of data) to the National Databank. This is enough to provide 319 million hours of internet use to over 200,000 people in need, nationwide. Incredible! It’s also great to see Virgin Media O2 donate £500,000 to the Good Things Foundation to cover the costs of running the Databank.

The launch follows on from some amazing community-driven projects delivered by Virgin Media to support vulnerable customers during the pandemic. From free mobile data, devices and TV channels; to launching its Essential Broadband service for customers who are struggling financially; to the Help for Home Learners initiative; O2’s Community Calling programme; and Virgin Media’s Carers UK partnership – I couldn’t be prouder of the work the team is doing to bring people together. The team is truly is changing business for good.

The team work tirelessly to bring their purpose to life, and this was especially clear to me after speaking to Jeff Dodds, Virgin Media COO, as part of my Purposeful Leadership series

Holly Branson's Purposeful Leadership interview with Jeff Dodds

Ahead of a nationwide rollout in November, a three-month pilot of the National Databank is now underway with 10 community organisations. The team is also calling on other mobile networks to join the National Databank and help scale the reach and impact of the platform. It really does take collaboration to tackle such wide-reaching issues.

I’m really excited to follow this journey and support it in any way I can. I believe it will make such a positive  difference to so many people’s lives. I would love you to join me in supporting this innovative initiative in any way you can. You can find more details and support the National Databank right here.