Three has become the latest operator to offer free mobile data through the UK National Data Bank, an initiative that offers vouchers and SIM cards to those struggling to afford connectivity.
The project is run by digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation and arose from a pilot programme it established with Virgin Media O2 during the pandemic.
Lockdown exposed the challenges that many people had in affording connectivity at a time when the Internet is essential for education, work, and to access public services. Anyone who remains offline is at a major disadvantage.
UK National Data Bank
Most operators took steps to ensure no one was disconnected and the Data Bank hopes to build on that by taking steps to reduce long-term digital poverty by working with community groups to get data in the hands of the most vulnerable in society.
Virgin Media O2 has donated £500,000 to the Good Things Foundation to cover its costs, while Vodafone has also joined the initiative. The charity says it wants to end data poverty by 2024 through partnership between public, private and community organisations.
“We’re delighted that Three are joining the National Databank - which is helping thousands of people to get connected and to do the things many of us take for granted - like accessing the services they need, finding work or staying in touch with friends and family,” said Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation.
“With living costs rising, people are having to make stark choices between having the data they need and heating their house or feeding their family. The National Databank is ensuring we aren’t leaving these people behind.”
“We are committed to providing better connectivity, responsibly,” added Elaine Carey, Chief Commercial Officer at Three UK. “Having online access is something most of us take for granted, yet 6% of UK households don’t have this luxury. By joining the UK National Databank, we want to help close this divide and work together to end data poverty, so everyone can benefit from the many opportunities that digital access offers.”
Recent research from Ofcom suggested that one fifth of households struggle to pay their mobile and broadband bills – a situation that will be exacerbated by rising living costs. It has called on providers to offer social tariffs to eligible customers that are clearly advertised and easy to apply for.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.