Bede House and Time & Talents are among the local groups working with environmental charity Hubbub and network operator O2 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.

The pre-identified list of households has been put together by a number of local organisations, including SE16-based Bede and Time & Talents.

Their clients range from the elderly, those in low-income households, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers. 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.

Local residents are being asked 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 credit to be used with the donated devices.

“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,” said O2’s Tracey Herald.

“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, co-founder of 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 www.hubbub.org.uk/communitycalling/ for more details.

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