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Virgin Media O2, together with Good Things Foundation, today announces that the first-ever National Databank will be rolling out across the UK – as Virgin Media O2 pledges even more free O2 mobile data to help tackle data poverty. The launch is in response to the data crisis in the UK, with 1.5 million homes currently without internet access.

Following the success of a three-month National Databank pilot scheme and building on the 7.5 million GB of O2 mobile data already donated, Virgin Media O2 is also announcing today that it will gift 10GB of O2 data to the National Databank for every plan purchased between 1st November and 31st January.

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As a founding member of the National Databank, Virgin Media O2 now expects to triple its original data donation after its Christmas data pledge. This supercharges its donation commitment and takes the number of people it aims to help to over 255,000 nationwide.

This week also marks the launch of O2’s Christmas advertising campaign – We’re better, connected – which focuses on the data pledge, promising to help connect disconnected families all around the country with the mobile data that can help them fulfil their potential and live life to the fullest. The Christmas campaign was launched alongside the National Databank at an exclusive screening of this year’s O2 Christmas advert.

The National Databank was created by Virgin Media O2, working closely with Good Things Foundation and other digital inclusion experts including Community Organisers, Operation Wi-Fi, Hubbub and Nominet, and has been gifted to Good Things Foundation to run through its network of 5,000 community groups. The National Databank provides a central hub where community groups can access free ‘data voucher codes’ and SIM cards for anyone who needs them. Those accessing free data will also be offered additional support – including digital skills training and signposting to other essential services. Virgin Media O2 has also donated £500,000 to Good Things Foundation to cover the operational costs of running the Databank.

Maria, 30 from Birmingham explains how the data voucher she received from the National Databank pilot programme has completely transformed her life. Maria says: “The donation has allowed me to order prescriptions and attend GP video calls and online physiotherapy sessions for my disabled mother, but most importantly it has provided an escape for me at a difficult time.”

Amir, 41 from Northumberland says: “I was struggling to put food on the table, let alone able to afford any data to use the internet, but through the National Databank programme the whole family has benefitted.” Originally from Syria, Amir’s family struggles to make ends meet, but thanks to free data from the National Databank, Amir has been able to reach out to employers and make new contacts, and his children have been able to access the internet for educational purposes.

Alongside its data pledge, Virgin Media O2 will be increasing the free monthly data allowance for each voucher available through the National Databank from 7GB of O2 data per month to 15GB of O2 data per month in its fight to combat data poverty and get people connected across the UK.

Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “With many millions of people still facing digital exclusion, now is the time to come together and close the gap on digital inequality, and build a lasting legacy to help end data poverty for good. The success of the pilot scheme has shown us just how important the National Databank is to those who need it – and as it rolls out across the UK, we want to do even more.

“Through our data pledge this Christmas, we’re calling on our customers to help us triple our original donation, and connect the disconnected when they need it most.”

Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation, said: “Having sufficient data in our increasingly digital society is not a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential. With Christmas coming up and many set to spend the festive period alone, being connected to loved ones and to spend less on bills could make the world of difference and provide company to many for whom Christmas may be a lonely season

“The National Databank – which can be thought of as a ‘food bank for data’ – is already doing great work to bridge the digital divide. We’re very proud to be rolling out nationwide and we’re delighted that Virgin Media O2 is upping its data pledge this Christmas. Together, we can come together to help address the issue of data poverty in the UK once and for all.”

The launch of the National Databank follows a series of moves from Virgin Media O2 to support vulnerable customers during the COVID-19 pandemic – from free mobile data, devices and TV channels, to permanently zero-rating NHS and education websites. Last autumn – in the height of the second wave – Virgin Media launched its Essential Broadband service for customers who are struggling financially and receiving Universal Credit. The company’s Help for Home Learners initiative and O2’s Community Calling programme have respectively provided data and devices to those in need at a crucial time.

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