How to get online for FREE or at a low-cost

Many have relied on technology to see us through the pandemic, whether it’s maintaining connections with friends and family, booking online grocery shops, checking in with healthcare professionals or accessing essential services such as banking. But what if you don’t have a device or a connection?

Do you know someone who would benefit from a device or is struggling to pay for broadband connectivity? During our webinar, we had a great panel of speakers, including Good Things FoundationGreater Manchester Combined Authority and AbilityNet

The webinar explored how charities or carers (paid and unpaid) can source devices and free or low-cost internet access. Watch the webinar recording (transcript available below):

The webinar covered:

  • An introduction to AbilityNet and how we support people to make the most of their tech
  • Why we need to get more people online, and the scale of the challenge
  • Schemes that offer low-cost or FREE devices to those who are digitally excluded
  • How the National Databank is helping connect people to the internet
  • Examples of partnerships that have helped people  get online during Covid-19

Meet the speakers

We had a great panel of speakers from organisations helping to close the digital divide, including:

Good Things Foundation

The Good Things Foundation logo. Comprises a thumb print

Good Things Foundation is a social change charity. The charity works to help people improve their lives through digital and focuses on working in partnership in communities.

Good Things Foundation is currently working with Virgin Media O2 to “end data poverty”. The result of their partnership is the National Databank.

Rob Shapiro, Good Things Foundation

Headshot, Rob Shapiro God Things Foundation. He wears a white shirt.

Rob Shapiro is a Partnerships and Fundraising Manager at Good Things Foundation, a digital inclusion charity operating in the UK and Australia.

Rob is interested in programmes that tackle digital and social exclusion in the heart of communities, developing relationships with partners who share a vision of a world where everyone benefits from digital, developing new approaches to digital inclusion focusing on a range of themes including data poverty, digital skills and embedding digital inclusion support in organisations.

John Duncan, Digital Inclusion Programme Manager at Greater Manchester Combined Authority (seconded from Virgin Media O2)

John is seconded from Virgin Media O2 Business to Greater Manchester, where he’s supporting the Authority’s ambitious plans to ensure fair and equal access to technology - regardless of age, background or situation.

John is part of the Digital Inclusion Taskforce. The focus of his role is supporting the development of a strategic approach to ending digital exclusion for under 25’s, over 75’s and disabled people; to help achieve the Mayor’s aim of a 100% digitally-enabled Greater Manchester. 

He also acts as a champion in communicating critical messages to the local community and stakeholders. 

Chris Grant, Community Relationship Officer for AbilityNet

Chris GrantChris Grant is Community Relationship Officer for AbilityNet. His focus is on fundraising for AbilityNet and driving community partnerships.

Chris played a crucial role in our involvement in the Digital Lifeline. We worked with Good Things Foundation and others to deliver the government’s emergency response programme to deliver devices to people with learning disabilities or difficulties.

He also helped deliver several projects in 2021 where we supported people with learning disabilities who received a device through the scheme.

Webinar FAQs

A recording, slide deck, transcript, webinar Q&As and useful links from our speakers can be found below. 

You can find an archive of our webinars on our website and we also offer paid role-based accessibility training.

Find out more in our webinars FAQs and sign up to our next free webinar in our AbilityNet Live webinar series.

Webinar Q&As

This webinar lasted 60 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the guest, please see below the questions and answers from John, Rob and Chris.

Q: John, the support that was offer to Care Leavers, did this include Care Leavers in education, in particular Higher Education? 

John: Yes, it doesn’t matter if the Care Leaver is in Education, Training, Employment or a NEET the offer is available to them all.

Q: I work in the NHS and have patients who are unable to afford internet access, where would we be able to look into individually or would our service be able to apply for this project or support? 

Rob: Good Things Foundation could definitely discuss this further with you, we would need some further information to answer this question as we would need to know the location. Please see the useful links section of this page to assist further help. 

Q: I work for a small charity in Brighton who support many people who are digitally excluded and who would benefit from the National Databank. I'm not aware of community organisations in Brighton who are linked with this. I wonder what sort of organisations can apply to be involved, and what specifically would this involve?  

Rob: Yes please apply, the first step is to register as an online centre, its free to join.
Once you are registered you will be able to complete a simple application for data. The application is rolling but the cut off point is at the end of the months so please contact if you want to make sure you apply before 31st January.

Q: I'm a single mother on universal credit. How do I get access for my daughter for a device?  

Rob: Someone receiving data through the National Databank must: 

  • Be 18+ years old 
  • AND be from a low income household 

And qualifies in one or several of the following statements: 

  • Has no access or insufficient access to the internet at home
  • AND/OR has no or insufficient access to the internet when away from the home 
  • AND/OR cannot afford their existing monthly contract or top up 

I hope this helps. 

Useful links

Greater Manchester Combined Authority 

Good Things Foundation

Access the PowerPoint slides from the webinar:


Date of webinar: 
17 Jan 2022 - 13:00