Free data for Big Issue sellers from the National Databank

Rodney, a Big Issue seller
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
29 November 2021

More than 200 Big Issue sellers will receive free data plans each month, thanks to the National Databank, which was launched by Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation.

The mobile data will be donated by O2 and will enable Big Issue sellers to make cashless sales, access essential online services and stay connected with their families. Big Issue sellers will get 7GB of data each month, as well as a free sim with unlimited calls and texts.

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.”

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Russell Blackman, Commercial MD at The Big Issue, added: “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.”

The National Databank initiative works a bit like a “food bank for data”, and tackles data poverty by providing free mobile data to people in need. With 1.5 million homes currently without internet access, Virgin Media O2 has committed to donating 10GB of data to the National Databank for every plan purchased until 31 January 2022.

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.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

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.”

To support Big Issue vendors this Christmas you can buy a copy of the magazine or subscription from your local vendor. Alternatively, you can make a donation here: