Digital tech can be a lifeline – more so than ever with Covid-19 restrictions on human contact. But many are missing out. Around 3.6m people living in the UK are almost completely offline and around 11.7m lack the basic tech skills essential to everyday life3. We’re helping those most in need get connected and build confidence in being online.

Volunteers at our BT, EE and Plusnet contact centres reached out to isolated residents in care homes by pairing up with a companion and calling to chat to them regularly. We also sought to combat lockdown loneliness through our Plus One campaign in the run-up to Christmas. The idea was simple, encouraging people to reach out virtually to someone in their life that they had lost touch with. BT leaders and colleagues led the way, alongside celebrities like Rio Ferdinand who reconnected with his favourite dinner lady at Manchester United Football Club.

With face-to-face learning limited this year, we used television to reach out to people who aren’t online. Our Top Tips on Tech campaign with ITV offered practical advice on how to connect with loved ones and access vital services online. 

Top Tips on Tech reaches 5.7 million during lockdown

Covid-19 hit the UK in March 2020 and we suddenly found ourselves in lockdown. Overnight, the nation had to learn how to stay connected to life, work and school without leaving home. It was a worrying and uncertain time – especially for the less tech savvy among us.

We joined forces with ITV to help people gain confidence fast. For three weeks in April and May 2020, we took over full ad breaks during This Morning and the ITV Evening News to share Top Tips on Tech. We enlisted well-known television and sport personalities to present simple how-to advice from their homes to viewers. Sports presenter Clare Balding kicked off the series with a spot on how to use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family. 

Comedian David Walliams showed parents where to find much-needed support with homeschooling, while hosts Marvin and Rochelle chipped in with tips to keep kids safe online. And England football manager Gareth Southgate – and some of his star players – shared their favourite apps to keep fit at home.

The 12 bite-sized lessons had a lasting impact on many viewers. More than 5.7m people learnt something new and 2.1m have been continuing to put the knowledge they learnt into practice.

Clare Balding
Clare Balding