The infrastructure and technology that Vodafone has developed over many years means that we have the capacity to support the most vulnerable during these unprecedented times.
We’ve spoken to some of our local markets in Europe to find out what our employees have been doing to help keep the most vulnerable in society connected.
Vodafone UK teamed up with No Isolation to distribute specially designed video units to elderly and isolated people so that they can stay connected to their families and friends during this essential period of enforced social distancing.
No Isolation’s KOMP units are tailor-made for people who have little or no experience using smartphones, computers or tablets. The one-button computer can connect to family members or carers through an app on their smart devices.
KOMPs are equipped with high-contrast screens and clear audio so that senior users who may have poor eyesight and hearing can still enjoy the device. The units also have the ability to receive photos, messages and video calls, which then appear in the photo stream on both the KOMPs and its’ app.
Vodafone has equipped these devices with free connectivity through mobile Wi-Fi units that have been gifted indefinitely, and SIM cards that offer free connectivity, both until the end of June.
Volunteers at Age UK and AbilityNet have assisted with the distribution and setting up of the devices so that they’re ready to go at the touch of a button.
As the coronavirus situation evolves, social distancing and self-isolation for particularly vulnerable older people means that such communication devices could be a lifeline over the coming weeks and months.
In a separate initiative, the North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton have been forced to adapt technology normally used for NHS online clinics to enable families to connect with its neonatal intensive care unit.
Two doctors, paediatric registrars, Dr Amy Taylor and Dr Saskia Burchett, came up with the idea and Dr Burchett reached out for help. Vodafone UK donated devices including free connection for three months so that parents of premature babies can now keep in touch with their vulnerable newborns by smartphone video link.
The devices are able to work on the NHS Attend Anywhere system — meaning parents can view “virtual ward rounds” being undertaken by neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staff, and see directly into the baby’s incubator. Parents can also ask clinicians about their baby’s care and progress.
Hospitals have been forced to put visiting restrictions in place to reduce the risk of infection. Dr Cheentan Singh, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist at North Middlesex, said: “The bond between a newborn and their family is vital to their development and with the restrictions in place, we know that it can be really difficult for families.
“We wanted to be able to reunite families and keep them informed about their newborn’s progress. Technology has been a great way to do this.”
In Ireland, one of our key partners, Kerry Phone Centres, recently donated 6 smartphones to the nurses and doctors in University Hospital Kerry, as they were having to use their own personal phones to call the loved ones belonging to the COVID-19 patients. Now they can use these phones to help patients contact their loved ones to keep in touch.
Vodafone Foundation Ireland have also donated 1,000 phones with credit to the charity Alone which is supporting older people across Ireland. The team have also ensured that all these smartphones have been pre-loaded with a number of useful apps like WhatsApp and RTE News. They also included information about ordering food deliveries online and supplied a list of important phone numbers like the national helplines for Alone and Ireland’s Health Service.
The City of Prague asked Vodafone Czech Republic to help non-profit organisations dealing with homelessness. The issue is that social services there are now closed and homeless people don´t have updated information on the crisis or the government measures. With shopping malls, restaurants and public institutions closed, they can´t communicate with their social workers as they have no place to charge their mobile phone.
To solve this Vodafone Czech Republic, along with the Czech Vodafone Foundation, donated 150 chargers for mobile phones to the Salvation Army that works with the City of Prague. The municipality rented a multi-charger for keeping those chargers fully charged for homeless people. For the homeless, their phone is a lifeline. It offers security and in some cases it’s the only means of help.
Vodafone Foundation Greece is giving free data and handsets to homeless sellers of the Greek street magazine Shedia, who can no longer work due to the lockdown.
Vodafone employees, as well as their friends and families, are also signing up to volunteer to give over the phone support to the homeless. Greek employees are also being encouraged to become subscribers of the magazine for two months, to support the sellers who have lost their income at this time.
To learn more about how we're helping families, communities and businesses stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit www.vodafone.com/covid19