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O2 are donating 1 million GB of data to those in need this Christmas

All Big Issue vendors, alongside millions struggling this winter, can access free data through the National Databank thanks to our partnership with O2 and Good Things Foundation – the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, helping to combat data poverty and keep those in need connected.

Many of us rely on mobile data for a successful Christmas. Whether it’s used to organise a get together, shop for presents online, or make video calls to faraway loved ones, digital inclusion is part and parcel of everyday life for busy people with little time and big plans. It can make the festive season particularly difficult for those experiencing data poverty.

So it’s perfect timing that this year O2 have upped their partnership so every Big Issue vendor will be offered free data from the National Databank. Set up by Virgin Media O2 last year, together with the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity – Good Things Foundation – the National Databank is like a foodbank for data and aims to make access to the internet available to all. For Big Issue vendors in particular, this access to free data allows them to offer card payments to the growing number of customers who’ve gone cashless. 

That was the case for Mark Richards, who sells The Big Issue in Cardiff. He is one of the vendors who made use of our pilot scheme last year, where 200 were offered free data. 

“Without mobile data, I’d be lost. But if you tell anyone you don’t have data, it’s not seen by them as a problem,” he says. 

“I use the data I was given from O2 to sell a lot of copies of the magazine, as many people don’t carry cash these days. I think it’s going to be a busy Christmas.” 

Going big on Christmas spirit

Big Issue Vendor Mark Richards in Cardiff ©Exposure Photo Agency Ltd

It helps that Mark goes big on the Christmas spirit – you’ll spot him wearing a costume to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to stressed shoppers. 

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“If they’re having a bad day and I put a smile on their faces, I’ve done my job,” he says. “I’ve dressed up for the last seven years and it’s always gone down a treat. I’ve been a snowman, and a Santa, and a Christmas cracker. I’ve even been a pink fairy! 

“I love Christmas, and I look forward to the day itself,” he adds. “I cook Christmas dinner, perhaps watch a bit of telly, and go to the pub – just for orange juice, as I haven’t drunk alcohol since I was 21.” 

The data was also a lifeline for Kelvin Gregory in London, who’s been selling The Big Issue since it first came out in the 1990s. 

“I’ve always been sceptical about the internet, but I capitulated and I found my sales went up 30 per cent because I could take card payments,” he says. “I find it funny when people tell me they don’t have cash and I tell them I have a card reader. They say, ‘well, that’s put me on the spot!’” 

Enriching life beyond work

While it’s useful for his job, Kelvin truly appreciates the data when it enriches his life beyond work. “It’s made me feel more connected with the world. Because everyone’s connected to the internet, I feel part of that group of people now,” he says. 

At Christmas, it will mean he’s more easily contactable by his friends and family, whether he’s at home or out and about. “It’s about getting connected and reaching out to people out to people who you haven’t
spoken to in a long time,” he says. “Friends and family have started to ring me over video chat now. I’m still a technophobe and I often just call them back, but I’m getting used to it.”

Mostly, the data comes in handy to satisfy his curiosity for the world around him – whether that’s staying on top of the latest news, or delving into the questions that pop into his mind. “I tend to use the microphone and ask questions to Google. I reckon I’ll be using it to find out the best way to cook roast potatoes,” he says.

Back in Cardiff, Ahmed Hashi is another seller who’s just starting out in his digital journey. He’s five months sober, and relies on his free data not only for card payments, but also to stream music – his big passion. He finds that listening to playlists of reggae, funk and soul help lift his mood when he needs to feel energised.

“Listening to music has made life a lot more pleasant for me. But I can’t read or write, so I don’t use my phone for much else yet,” he says.

Whether it’s used for essential services, hobbies or to help everyone feel better connected to the world around them, the data is set to have a significant impact. As well as supporting Big Issue vendors, O2 are offering one million GB of data via 7GB vouchers called Christmas Sim Cards to anyone in need this Christmas. They’re available in store and online, you can pick one up for yourself or send it to someone who needs a hand staying connected. This is a significant gesture reflecting the cost-of-living crisis that will leave so many without vital connections this season. 

Big Issue Vendor Kelvin Gregory at Waterloo Bridge, London / TBI/O2 advertorial ©Exposure Photo Agency Ltd

Digital exclusion

Says Simon Valcarcel, Marketing Director at O2: “This year we wanted to get data into the hands of people facing an unconnected Christmas. With the cost-of-living crisis deepening, around two million UK households are at risk of digital exclusion. 

“We want our Christmas campaign to help raise awareness of the support available from the National Databank, to access the services that people need and stay connected to loved ones.” 

Good Things Foundation’s Group CEO Helen Milner OBE says: “Homeless people are having to say their home address is actually their email address. And for those with shelter, we hear about ‘heating or eating’ – people are making decisions to turn off the internet because they can’t survive otherwise. 

“People who can’t access the internet are excluded from essential services, products and support. They can’t access GP appointments or repeat prescriptions, and 95 per cent of all new jobs are only advertised on the internet. 

“Plus they’re cut off from loved ones,” she adds. “But once they’re online and have been supported by us and our partners, they have that essential human contact we all want and need.” 

So if you know someone who could do with a helping hand, her advice is to take the first step on their behalf. “It won’t cost you money,” says Helen. “It will just cost you some time to get an O2 Christmas Sim Card and give it to someone you know who is struggling.” 

And Kelvin adds that he’d encourage everyone – even if you’re not really used to ‘going digital’ yet – to take the plunge: “I say get on board with it. I was a sceptic about data and the internet; I’m 60 and I’ve never embraced technology. But don’t be scared of it. Data has really helped. It’s made me feel included.” 

At Christmas, what better gift than that? 

How to get the data

If you know anyone who needs a helping hand, send them a free O2 Christmas Sim Card with 7GB of data.

Find out how by visiting o2.co.uk/nationaldatabank – there is also a map showing where you can access free National Databank data, including 10 O2 stores.

Anyone over the age of 18 who is experiencing data poverty can access up to six bundles of 20GB of free data this festive season from the National Databank.

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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