Vodafone (VOD.L) said it will invest €20m (£18m, $24m) to expand digital skills and education programmes in the UK, 12 more European countries and Turkey, which it said are particularly important as the world reels from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of the programmes, delivered in partnership with charities and NGOs, are already helping people to develop their knowledge and skills in using digital technologies, with the goal to reach millions of primary and secondary learners, those who are not in education, employment or training, and the elderly.
The investment is expected to reach 16 million learners by 2025.
Nick Read, CEO Vodafone Group said the operator “is proud to support the critical development of digital skills and education in the communities we serve through our expertise in connectivity and technology. We remain committed, in an ever increasingly digital world, to building inclusive digital societies where nobody is left behind.”
He said this “matters now more than ever as society aims to build back better following the impact of COVID-19.”
The European countries where the initiative will take place include Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
The investment will be spread over the next five years. This is in addition to the estimated €150m of donations from Vodafone to a range of COVID-19-related initiatives, and a €10m investment from Vodafone Foundation.
Vodafone Foundation, which invest in the betterment of the communities in which the telco operates, is working to close the digital skills gap by investing in programmes for primary and secondary learners, which combine face-to-face training and digital platforms to upskill students and teachers.
One of these is DigiCraft in Spain, a project-based digital skills learning platform for primary students that supported 93,000 users between March and July 2020, following COVID-related school closures.
Generation Next in Greece and Albania combines STEM workshops and digital learning materials to help improve digital skills for over 61,000 teenagers to date. The ambition is to reach one million learners through the platform by 2025.
Vodafone Foundation is also working to increase digital competencies for over 65s, helping to address the trend of isolation and loneliness which has been exacerbated by lockdowns and social distancing in the wake of COVID-19.
The proportion of six to 74 year olds with no access to the internet ranges from 13% to 36% in Ireland, Luxembourg and Czech Republic, Vodafone said.
Vodafone Foundation will deliver a new programme in these countries to support 880,000 seniors by 2025.
Those who do access the internet lack the digital competencies to enjoy the full benefits that connectivity can offer.
“Through face-to-face workshops, digital support and an online learning platform, Vodafone Foundation is offering the opportunity to seniors to be active in an increasingly digital society,” the mobile operator said.
Vodafone Group’s revenue for the first half of its 2021 financial year was down 2.3% year-on-year to €21.4bn ($25.4bn, £19.2bn) as the pandemic impacted the money it makes from roaming as well as handset sales.
The mobile operator said a “good underlying momentum” and the benefit from the acquisition of Liberty Global’s (LBTYA) assets in Germany and Central and Eastern Europe was offset by lower revenue from roaming, handset sales, foreign exchange headwinds and the disposal of Vodafone New Zealand.
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