O2 partners with The Big Issue to help vendors stay connected


O2 and The Big Issue have announced a partnership which will see over 200 of the magazine’s vendors receive free data plans every month, enabling them to make cashless sales, access essential online services and stay connected with their families, this festive season and beyond.

The partnership comes as part of the National Databank initiative launched by O2 and Good Things Foundation.

The scheme works like a “food bank for data”, tackling data poverty by providing free mobile data to people in need. For every plan the award-winning network sells this Christmas, O2 has announced it will in turn donate 10GB of data to the Databank so it’s there for someone who really needs it, free of charge.

The Databank is designed to support O2’s data pledge to get more than 255,000 people living in poverty connected by the end of 2023.

As part of its drive to help end the digital divide, O2 has committed to setting up over 200 Big Issue vendors with data plans each month to help them go cashless and grow their business. With 7GB of data, as well as a free sim, unlimited calls and texts, they’ll be able to connect with family and friends just in time for Christmas.

Being locked out of the digital world means paying more for life’s essentials, being frozen out of welfare benefits, and not having a voice in the modern world. It can also mean isolation from friends and family. Lack of access doesn’t just shut down opportunities like jobs and education, it’s a marker for poorer health and lower life expectancy.

This is what the partnership between O2 and The Big Issue seeks to address. The free data plans will help vendors surmount the far-reaching consequences of digital poverty. The Big Issue has seen how important this is, since vendors started to offer cashless selling in 2019, many have seen sales increase by a third or more.

Rodney Lyall, a Big Issue vendor based in Bournemouth, said: “I can have a card reader, which increases my sales, but I need a mobile phone for that. I can now ring The Big Issue office when I need to, I can do banking on my phone. When I check my balance, I know how many magazines I can afford to buy that day. And my family are in Newcastle and I’m in Bournemouth, so being able to stay in touch when we’re so far apart has benefits for my mental health and wellbeing. You feel part of things.”

Russell Blackman, Commercial MD at The Big Issue, said: “We are incredibly excited about this partnership. Not only does it mean our vendors will be able to boost their sales, but it also means they will be able to stay connected to their loved ones this Christmas.

“Whilst in 2019 we started to help ensure our vendors were connected, there are still many who need access. This partnership will ensure even more of our vendors are no longer left behind. We are incredibly grateful to O2 for this opportunity and are very excited to see the good that will inevitably come out of this much needed National Databank.”

Simon Valcarcel, Marketing Director at Virgin Media O2, said: “Data poverty affects many millions of people in the UK, so we set up the National Databank with the help of Good Things Foundation to help those most in need stay connected.

“This Christmas, we’ve partnered with The Big Issue to provide over 200 of their vendors with access to the free data each month. The aim is to help them take mobile payments in an ever more cashless society, access the services that they need and stay connected to loved ones.”