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Advertorial from O2

How O2 are helping to tackle data poverty by offering free data to those in need this Christmas

Many of us take access to the internet for granted, but a change in circumstances can leave someone cut off from their loved ones and everyday essentials. That’s why we’re working with O2, who together with Good Things Foundation, set up the National Databank to ensure people across the country can stay connected this winter.

Advertorial from O2

Data poverty can mean no access to crucial services for some of the most vulnerable in our society, including some Big Issue vendors. It’s more than that, though – internet access goes far beyond the important admin of our lives; it’s become a must-have. Just think back to the feeling of frustration last time you had a connection outage and you remember how reliant we’ve become on it.

This was highlighted in the pandemic, when online classes left thousands of children in internet-free homes without basic education. Even post-pandemic, two million households don’t have access to the internet (OFCOM 2022). It puts them on the back foot when it comes to life’s basics like applying for government services – never mind the fundamentals of a full life, like connecting with friends and family.

Free mobile internet data to those who need it the most. 

Recognising this pressing yet ignored issue of data poverty, last year Virgin Media O2 joined forces with the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to set up the National Databank, to offer free mobile internet data to those who need it the most. 

They donated a huge 61 million GB to help people like Josh Ogun from north Manchester, who is on Jobseeker’s Allowance.  Because Josh doesn’t have broadband at home, he used data to continue his job search. “Looking for work isn’t easy – I’m still finding problems trying to get the right job,” he says. “I try to use wifi when I can, but having the data meant I could spend more time on it.”

Josh also used the data for his passions, like keeping up with the news and watching movies. While movies eat through his data, he feels it’s worth it. 

“I feel like I’m not connecting with the world properly when I don’t have data. I have to rely on television and radio, but I know there’s much more available.”

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I feel like I’m not connecting with the world properly when I don’t have data. I have to rely on television and radio, but I know there’s much more available

Josh, Big Issue vendor

Jake Stokes from Heaton in Bolton got his free National Databank data  a few months ago through his work as a project youth worker for Believe Achieve CIC. “My boss offered it to me because costs are going up and I live on my own, so he thought it would be helpful to me,” he explains. 

“I’ve never really had much data on my phone, so having it all the time is new to me, and it’s making life so much easier. It’s allowed me to do work-related things on the go, like online health and safety courses and checking emails.”

But mostly, it’s helped him stay better connected to friends and family. “I call and text my mum too much now – she probably gets annoyed!” he says, laughing. “I feel the benefit of staying connected, especially as I live on my own. You would feel a bit left out, and sometimes even lonely. It’s definitely helped with that.”

I feel the benefit of staying connected, especially as I live on my own. You would feel a bit left out, and sometimes even lonely. It’s definitely helped with that.

Anthony, Big Issue vendor

As part of last year’s free data scheme, The Big Issue together with O2 helped 200 sellers stay better connected by offering them free sims and data. It was welcome as cashless sales of the magazine were rising rapidly, and last summer they eclipsed cash transactions. It was a big boost for artist and Big Issue seller Anthony Okuyedi in South Kensington, London.

“As a Big Issue vendor, it’s really, really helpful because a lot of people just don’t carry cash any more,” he says. “So when they see the card reader they really like it.” 

Christmas Sim Card

This Christmas, there’s more free data on offer as the scheme expands significantly. Following on from the success of supporting 200 Big Issue sellers last year, O2 will be offering National Databank data to all 1,200 vendors, making sure they can maximise their sales. Plus, as part of their marketing campaign to raise awareness of the National Databank, O2 have created the O2 Christmas Sim Card. The Christmas Sim Card is available in store and online, and allows those in need to redeem 7GB of data for free.

And it comes just in time: the recession means there’s more demand than ever for internet access from those who need to prioritise other bills.

Helen Milner OBE, Group CEO of Good Things Foundation, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is having huge knock-on effects in our society right now – more people than ever are being plunged into financial crisis, and as a result access to essential services like the internet are becoming out of reach for many. However, I am optimistic because of partnerships like this one with Virgin Media O2. Together, we can all come together to help fix the digital divide.”

That’s why there’s a major drive to make sure the O2 Christmas Sim Cards get in the hands of those who need them the most. 

For those who feel they would benefit from the 7GB of data, Jake has some advice. “You should do it, definitely,” he says. “It has a positive effect on whatever you need it for, even if it’s just to make sure you’re not excluded from conversations you could be having, or from things you could be doing.” 

If you know anyone who needs a helping hand, send them a free O2 Christmas Sim Card with 7GB of data. There is also a map showing where you can access free National Databank data, including 10 O2 stores.

Click here to get started.

Subject to availability. 1 voucher per person, whilst stocks last. Minimum of 7GB guaranteed. O2 Pay As You Go £10 Big Bundle sim required; sim not provided. Redemption mechanic & terms apply, see o2.co.uk/terms

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Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

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