2020 Annual Report

4 min read

Staying connected through the COVID-19 pandemic

Story synopsis

  • As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, FutureDotNow recognised that those with no access to the internet could find it difficult to stay in touch with others and access essential online services during lockdown. To help, we’ve supported their emergency DevicesDotNow campaign, through which businesses are helping those who need online access by donating funds, devices and connectivity.

Smartphone ownership reached a peak in the UK in 2019 – and with 89 per cent of people now having access to a handset, so many of us take for granted the ability to access essential services and connect with others whenever we like.

Yet, against this backdrop of increasing connectivity, 1.9 million households in the UK do not have access to the internet. And for many more, meeting the cost of staying connected can be difficult.

For those without access to technology, restricted access to opportunities and services is a growing problem – which was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting the digital inclusion agenda

With online activity increasing and many businesses moving their services and operations online, building digital skills is a vital part of meeting future demand in the workplace.

However, the Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2020 highlights a significant gap: 17.1 million people in the UK do not have the essential digital skills required for work.

Recognising the importance of addressing this digital divide, in January 2020 Deloitte signed up to be a member of the industry coalition, FutureDotNow, which is committed to empowering everyone to thrive in a digital UK.

“As a large employer, we have a responsibility to tackle digital exclusion and help to ensure that, as a nation, we remain productive and competitive” said Deloitte senior manager Holly Chate, who provides pro bono support to FutureDotNow.

“Along with industry bodies, charities and other businesses, we’ve pledged to work collaboratively on this issue, to share tools and resources, and build the digital skills of both our own workforce and in society.”

Providing emergency support during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, FutureDotNow recognised that those with no access to the internet nor the essential skills needed to operate safely online during lockdown.

Vulnerable people of all ages found themselves isolated in their homes unable to contact their loved ones or access essentials like food, prescriptions and money.

In response, FutureDotNow created DevicesDotNow, an emergency campaign to help those households with no internet access. The campaign asked businesses to donate funds, devices (tablets, smartphones or laptops) and connectivity. Teams then prepared the sim-enabled devices and delivered to those in need, together with connectivity and socially distant support to get online.

Supporting the campaign

To support the campaign, Holly provided strategic programme management expertise on a pro bono basis for the external-facing aspects of the programme.

“There was already a waiting list of over 8,000 people known to the organisation who were digitally excluded - so there was no time to waste in getting a device to those most in need” she continued.

Keeping connected

As part of the campaign, Deloitte donated 278 laptops to the NHS and our One Million Futures charities.

Sharing expertise

“It was a real team effort” Holly said. “As the programme manager, I created structure and provided clarity on the priorities, and was responsible for ensuring our teams worked together in an integrated way and at pace.”

Key priorities were raising awareness of the issue in the media and with key government departments, and mobilising fundraising efforts with major grant givers, many of whom were offering emergency grants during the crisis.

Within the first four months, multiple fundraising bids were submitted, which resulted in £1.4m in funding.

Holly adds, “Our crowdfunding and social media campaign #4faces4devices campaign raised the profile in the public eye. This, together with powerful print coverage and media appearances on BBC Breakfast and BBC 5 live, helped us to achieve £12k in individual donations.”

The funding was essential to achieve the campaign’s aim of getting devices to people as quickly as possible.

By August 2020, over 4,720 people received their device and a further 7,162 people are set to by the autumn. Against an initial target of 10,000 people helped, 11,882 will have been supported.

Helping the UK to Thrive

To demonstrate our continued commitment to this issue, Holly is now on secondment as FutureDotNow’s Chief Operating Officer.

The legacy of the DevicesDotNow campaign will live on through the work at FutureDotNow – which will continue to champion the economic importance of digital skills and digital inclusion.

FutureDotNow brings together industry partners and Government to accelerate digital upskilling through coordinated industry action, in support of a 100% digitally included UK.

FutureDotNow is one of the many programmes supported by Deloitte UK’s social impact goal One Million Futures. In 2020 we achieved this ambition and now aim to help an additional 5 Million Futures across North and South Europe by 2030.

Share this insight

Currently reading

Staying connected through the COVID-19 pandemic

Read more Impact stories

Related themes