Big Issue vendors are to receive free mobile data under a partnership between the magazine and O2.
More than 200 vendors will receive free data plans every month, enabling them to make cashless sales, access online services and stay connected with their families.
They will receive 7GB of data, a free sim and unlimited calls and texts.
The Big Issue said the scheme works like a “food bank for data”, tackling data poverty by providing free access to people in need.
The Databank is designed to support O2’s pledge to get more than 255,000 people living in poverty connected by the end of 2023.
The Big Issue said being locked out of the digital world means paying more for essential goods and services, being frozen out of welfare benefits, and missing out on job opportunities.
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 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 managing director 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.”