Advertorial from O2

Here’s how we’re working with O2 to offer free mobile data to all our vendors

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.

An illustration of a person struggling with digital poverty in the snow, wearing a Santa hat, opening a gift containing data while two men hug behind her, with a stylised London skyline as the backdrop
Advertorial from O2

For those of us with data at our fingertips, staying connected to our loved ones, keeping up to date with social media and news and accessing basic services is something we take for granted. But data poverty can take that away, making our worlds much smaller and more frustrating. And it’s getting worse for even more people as winter sets in and the cost-of-living crisis bites.

That’s why data poverty – where some people don’t have access or ability to use the internet – is a major concern in the UK. The issue is becoming more pressing as society’s move to digital continues at full speed. Accelerated by the pandemic, access to banks, jobs, government services and GP appointments are now digital-first – yet two million households don’t have access to the internet (Ofcom 2022), so are locked out of the system.


Like a food bank, but with internet dished out

That’s why last year, O2 joined forces with the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to set up the National Databank, to put the power of free mobile internet data in the hands of those who need it the most. Think of it like a food bank, but with internet data dished out instead. Today, the National Databank offers free data to those in need through 773 local organisations across the UK, and aims to help 500,000 people by Christmas 2025. 

The momentum began last Christmas, when O2 donated 10GB for every purchase, culminating in a massive 61 million GB being donated to support those without internet access. As part of the scheme, The Big Issue, together with O2 helped 200 vendors stay better connected by offering them free sims and data. In the UK, nine out of 10 in-person transactions are via contactless now, so it allowed vendors to sell The Big Issue via contactless payments. Stevie Paterson from Edinburgh was one of The Big Issue vendors given this lifeline. He explains: “The sim was really important to me. It meant I could set myself up on Zettle to accept contactless payments – now, it’s how I sell about half my magazines.” 

Because a full life is about more than earning money, sports fan Paterson also uses his data to keep tabs on the latest football, darts and snooker scores, and to stay connected with his mum, dad and sister on a daily basis, which helps to keep that family bond tight. 

The sim was really important to me. It meant I could set myself up on Zettle to accept contactless payments – now, it’s how I sell about half my magazines.

Stevie Paterson, Big Issue vendor

Crucial first steps in a digital world

For other vendors, getting the free data prompted those crucial first steps in the digital world. 

Darren Brown from Middlesborough says: “I’ve never been a technology person, but they showed me how to use it and access the internet. If a customer is looking for somewhere, I help them with the maps on my phone, and I’ve even had my supermarket shopping delivered. The sim card is the best thing I’ve ever had through The Big Issue.”  

This meaningful change shows that the scheme did exactly what it needed to do, says Good Things Foundation’s Group CEO Helen Milner: “We’re delighted to be working with Virgin Media O2 on this programme, they really have embraced how they can help to end data poverty. It’s unacceptable that there are millions of people who have been left behind.” 

If a customer is looking for somewhere, I help them with the maps on my phone, and I’ve even had my supermarket shopping delivered.

Darren Brown, Big Issue vendor

Sadly, in the next few months the country’s financial woes will plunge more people into digital poverty – 18.7 million people are expected to have their ability to go online impacted by the cost-of-living crisis (UK Consumer Digital Index, 2022).  

Big problems, big solutions

Big problems call for big solutions, so this Christmas, O2 are stepping up their response. What’s to come at Christmas?  

  • O2 Christmas Sim Cards: O2 will be donating one million GB of data via 7GB vouchers called Christmas Sim Cards*. These will be available in all stores, and online so those most in need can stay connected.  
  • National Databank pilot in 10 O2 stores: O2 stores in areas with high levels of data poverty or where the National Databank currently has limited or no presence are becoming National Databank centres to access free data. Click here to find locations: o2.co.uk/national-databank/map
  • Connecting all Big Issue vendors: The scheme will be rolled out further: in addition to sims and data vouchers for those in need, every single Big Issue vendor will be offered free data each month so they can all have the vital connection that internet access brings. 

Simon Valcarcel, Marketing Director of VirginMedia, O2, explains: “This year we wanted our Christmas campaign to not only help raise awareness of the support available via the National Databank, but to get data into the hands of people facing an unconnected Christmas. 

“As part of this, we’re delighted to be partnering with The Big Issue for the second year in a row and to be able to offer all of their vendors access to free National Databank data each month. We know from the success of last year that this will help them take mobile payments in an ever more cashless society, access the services that they need, and stay connected to loved ones.” 

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, access to the internet is becoming unaffordable for many. With O2’s National Databank campaign, we hope that we can help support people to stay better connected.

Russell Blackman, Managing Director at The Big Issue

Russell Blackman, Managing Director at The Big Issue, says: “We are delighted to be continuing our invaluable work with O2, following the successful launch last year of the National Databank. By extending this opportunity out to all Big Issue vendors, it will enable and empower them to boost their sales through cashless payments at this vital time of year, as well as being able to access essential online services.  

“As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, access to the internet is becoming unaffordable for many. With O2’s National Databank campaign, we hope that we can help support people to stay better connected.” 

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 

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

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