UK gadget owners are being encouraged to donate devices they no longer need to help those lacking connectivity during lockdown.
The Great British Tech Appeal has been launched by Vodafone and charity Barnardo’s in an effort to help those without adequate digital access to online education and other services.
Millions of people have turned to technology during the coronavirus lockdown to work, study and stay in touch with friends and family, but the appeal warns that thousands of people – particularly children – are unable to access technology.
The appeal hopes to redistribute devices to around 10,000 disadvantaged children, families and charity workers who support them.
A report by Barnardo’s indicates that “digital poverty” affects the ability of many children and young people from keeping in touch with support staff.
As part of the tech appeal, people can offer to donate devices by filling in an online form and will be sent a donation kit which includes a flattened freepost box and prepaid returns envelope.
Every device received will be data wiped, reboxed with a cable and charger and redistributed with the help of the appeal’s charity partners.
Vodafone chief executive Nick Jeffery said: “Our focus throughout this crisis has been keeping the UK connected.
“We’ve provided tech support to our charity partners and the vulnerable people they care for, and across the UK our teams have been working flat out to bring NHS hospitals, frontline staff and emergency services the connectivity they need to do their amazing work.
“However, we know that many thousands of children and families still can’t access learning or essential support because they don’t have the devices or connectivity they need.
“The Great British Tech Appeal relies on the generosity of the public and we call on them to get behind this appeal. Your old phone or tablet really could change a life.”
Vodafone confirmed it will cover all postage and packaging costs and will provide three months’ free data for every device distributed.
The appeal will run for six weeks and will also provide devices to the British Red Cross and to services for victims of domestic abuse through the charity SafeLives.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “The coronavirus crisis is having serious consequences for the vulnerable children and families we support across the UK.
“‘Digital poverty’ – the lack of devices or internet access – means many children already at a disadvantage will fall further behind at school and miss out on vital support such as counselling.
“We’re delighted to be working with Vodafone to help get technology and connectivity into the hands of the vulnerable children and families who need it most.
“If you do have a smartphone or tablet at home that you’re not using, please consider donating it to the Great British Tech Appeal so we can help children learn and stay safe at home.”