Environmental charity Hubbub and Virgin Media O2 are today launching a £400,000 fund to provide tablets and free mobile data to community organisations to lend to people in temporary accommodation.
The Tech Lending Community Fund aims to help people facing digital exclusion access the internet, and reduce e-waste through the use of refurbished digital devices.
Grants of between £50,000 and £120,000 are available to organisations such as local councils, NGOs and community groups for the purchase refurbished devices to lend to groups in temporary accommodation so they can connect with loved ones, access healthcare, complete training or job applications and take part in virtual interviews.
The initial aim is to establish and support up to five Tech Lending Hubs in locations across the UK and make at least 1,000 high quality refurbished devices available.
This builds on Hubbub and O2’s Community Calling initiative which has redistributed more than 9,000 donated smartphones to people in need. The free mobile data will be provided by Virgin Media O2’s National Databank created in partnership in digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation.
The grant fund is also being supported by Amazon, which is providing an additional £100,000 to support the running costs of the lending hubs.
Applications close on 1 March and funding will be released from May this year.
Trewin Restorick, CEO and Founder of Hubbub said:
“This is a really exciting project which not only helps address the pressing issue of e-waste – one of the world’s fastest growing and most toxic waste streams – but also aims to support at least 4,000 people in temporary accommodation facing digital isolation. We’re very keen to hear from community groups interested in pioneering a community lending scheme.
“Our long-term ambition is to create a strong and vibrant network of tech lending hubs supported by high quality resources and guidance. This is a similar model to our Community Fridge Network which is now helping address waste and inequality in every corner of the country.”
Leeds City Council’s 100% Digital Leeds programme which helps digitally excluded people across the city, will also support the campaign and be on hand to share learnings, support groups and help with funding bids.
Leeds City Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for resources, Councillor Debra Coupar, said:
“Leeds City Council is delighted to support the launch of Hubbub and Virgin Media O2’s Tech Lending Community. Through our 100% Digital Leeds programme, we know that access to equipment and connectivity is an important aspect of digital inclusion. This scheme will overcome that barrier to inclusion for people living in temporary accommodation. We look forward to working with Hubbub to develop the Tech Lending Community. It will make a huge difference to the lives of people across the country.”