Marta Pinto (Research Manager, European Mobile Devices)

Lockdowns all over Europe in the first half of 2020 accelerated the adoption of digital tools to tackle the isolation brought about by COVID-19 and the need to continue to work and learn remotely. The consequence was a rush in demand for laptops, tablets and monitors.

The traditional PC market surged 26.4% YoY in 2Q20. The tablet market also showed double-digit growth, after a gloomy few years.

Not all users were familiar with the new digital technologies and advanced devices, however, with many relying on wireline or basic phones to keep in touch. According to IDC, feature phones accounted for up to 12.5% of the European phone market in 1Q20 and 10.5% in 2Q20.

Social distancing was imposed in many countries to limit the spread of COVID-19, but this left many people isolated, including some of the most vulnerable members of society:

  • The elderly, who often find it more difficult to adapt to new technologies
  • The unemployed, who might have trouble upgrading their devices or paying for additional airtime to search for jobs
  • Families with lower incomes that cannot afford multiple device purchases at once
  • Children from poorer backgrounds who were away from school and unable to socialise with other children because they didn’t have access to a connected device.

Many companies, with widely publicised social impact strategies, decided to walk the talk. In 2Q20 there were numerous initiatives to help connect more vulnerable people. IDC highlights some of these initiatives in this blog.

Samsung Donations

Samsung announced it was donating tablets and smartphones around the world to quarantined patients and educational institutions, so that learning could continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These donations have had a significant impact in emerging countries. In Ghana, for example, Samsung and MTN donated devices and airtime to the Ministry of Information to enable it to set up a virus containment digital chain.

Huawei Donations

In Italy and Portugal, two of its main markets in Europe, Huawei donated technology to healthcare institutions and the general population to help ease the impact of isolation.

In Italy, Huawei joined the Digital Solidarity initiative, coordinated by the Ministry of Technological Innovation and Digitisation. More than 500 tablets and smartphones were sent to Italian hospitals for distribution to patients in need.

In Portugal, Huawei and Altice Portugal partnered to distribute videoconferencing equipment to hospitals to better connect healthcare professionals. Huawei provided the equipment, while Altice supplied the 4G connection.

Apple — (PRODUCT)RED

Even before the pandemic, Apple’s (PRODUCT)RED line was already known for its underlying social inspiration. As the virus spread, Apple committed to donate part of (PRODUCT)RED proceeds to a COVID-19 relief fund. The donation would come not just from the RED portfolio of devices but also from partners.

DORO — Do Good Initiative

DORO is the European market leader for telecommunication solutions for seniors. At the 2018 Mobile World Congress, the company launched a SmartCare service. Starting in the Nordics, the service grew geographically and in the number of services offered. In the UK, the service was launched in 2020 under the name Response by DORO.

During the lockdowns, DORO worked with a number of partners to distribute devices for seniors and provide assistance to the isolated and vulnerable:

  • In France, it partnered with Orange and the French Red Cross to distribute more than 500 DORO phones. Orange supplied the connectivity via a pre-charged SIM card with the equivalent of 82 minutes of communications and unlimited calls and texts from 9pm to midnight for 6 months. The Red Cross was involved to make sure the devices reached those most in need.
  • In the UK, DORO worked with GiffGaff and the not-for-profit Neighbourly to distribute 500 devices to isolated seniors. GiffGaff supplied the connectivity via SIM cards that offered 2GB of monthly data usage, and Neighbourly identified those most in need of the service.
  • Also in the UK, DORO expanded its channel presence to carriers Sky and EE to make their devices more widely available and easier to purchase. New EE clients would benefit from free access to Response by DORO services for a month.
  • In Sweden, DORO joined forces with telecom company Comviq and the Lions aid institution to distribute 250 devices to vulnerable seniors. Comviq provided the pre-charged SIM cards and Lion made sure the devices reached the right people.
  • In Denmark, DORO worked with Danish People’s Aid and telecom service provider OiSTER to supply 250 seniors with devices. The SIM card was pre-charged with an equivalent of 100 minutes of talk time.

DORO distributed 2,000 devices in Europe. New users were also able to reach out to the DORO care service in case of need.

Lenovo

In its response to COVID-19, Lenovo used its own products and also gave away products and support to healthcare systems in Europe. In addition to in-kind donations, it also offered free global warranty extensions for Lenovo/Motorola smartphones, PCs, tablets, smart home devices, augmented/virtual reality devices, monitors and accessories whose warranties expired during lockdown.

Enabling Access to Digital Technologies

Social impact strategies are sometimes seen as “nice to have”. In times of need, however, companies can use the best of their products, knowledge and resources to give back to the communities that helped them build their business in the first place.

If the raison d’être is to solve a community problem, then community well-being must also be a priority.

COVID-19 revealed the digital gap and how, over night, inequality in access to digital technologies can prevent someone from working or learning. The response of the biggest companies shows it’s possible to enact social impact strategies in a positive way.

There is no new normal. Social impact business is the normal.

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