O2 is partnering with environmental charity Hubbub to encourage people to donate old or unused smartphones to digitally disconnected members of the community, as part of a trial to tackle digital exclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ‘Community Calling’ trial will initially involve 800 handsets being distributed to residents of Southwark in London.
1.9 million households in the UK don’t have access to the internet and are considered ‘digitally excluded’. O2 and Hubbub hope to change this, starting with a trial in Southwark which aims to encourage people to donate 500 old or unused smartphones which will be gifted to vulnerable members of society.
The pre-identified list of households has been put together by a number of local organisations in Southwark. Their clients range from the elderly, those in low-income households, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers.
Connectivity is a lifeline for so many at this time – and with so many smart devices sitting in drawers at home, this project provides the perfect opportunity to dust them off for a good cause
Within these groups, each organisation has identified those who would benefit most from a smartphone, based on providing access to essential services, online learning or getting connected to family and friends.
The project will invite members of the local Southwark community and surrounding areas to donate unused smartphones which will then be data-wiped, cleaned and refurbished by Recono.me ready for redistribution.
O2 is donating an additional 300 handsets alongside providing pay as you go SIMs and top up to be used with the donated devices.
In the UK, an average of four phones sit unused for every phone in use. O2 and Hubbub hope the trial will demonstrate a feasible phone-gifting model whereby, unused, workable phones can be donated and redistributed to the disconnected across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, extending the life of the devices whilst ensuring that people can stay connected to loved ones and vital frontline support services.
Once complete, O2 and Hubbub will share the learnings from the trial to help inform recycling and re-use initiatives in other cities across the UK.
The trial builds on O2’s commitment in March to become a Net Zero business, tackling carbon emissions in its business and supply chain. O2 has the longest-running major UK network recycling initiative in the UK, where customers can trade in their old devices for cash incentives. The scheme has saved over 450 tonnes of mobile phone waste from going to landfill, with all devices received being data-wiped and reused or recycled.
Tracey Herald, Head of Partnerships and Social impact at O2 said: “Connectivity is a lifeline for so many at this time – and with so many smart devices sitting in drawers at home, this project provides the perfect opportunity to dust them off for a good cause.
Community Calling offers a simple way to get unused smartphones to people who need them most during the current pandemic, allowing them to access essential services, to educate their kids or to stay in touch with loved ones.
“The Southwark community has been particularly affected by the recent pandemic, so we’re working in partnership with Hubbub, the local council and community groups to ensure we can distribute these devices to those who need them most. The trial will help us tackle digital exclusion and help the environment too.’
Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub said: “Community Calling offers a simple way to get unused smartphones to people who need them most during the current pandemic, allowing them to access essential services, to educate their kids or to stay in touch with loved ones.
“Plus it has the bonus environmental benefit of avoiding electrical waste going to landfill or incineration. We’re trialling the approach with O2 in Southwark and if successful, we’ll look to replicate it elsewhere in the UK.”
If you’d like to support the trial and donate your old smartphones to the Community Calling project, visit here for more details.