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An Post launches mobile data sharing network to help support homeless community

The Shared Network will give out 2,000 SIM cards to homeless organisations next week.

An Post sign outside the General Post Office in Dublin.
An Post sign outside the General Post Office in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal

AN POST MOBILE customers will be able to donate phone data to people who are homeless or living in emergency accommodation through a new initiative.

The Shared Network will give out 2,000 An Post SIM cards next week to five different homeless organisations with a combined total of 18,000GB data to be distributed over the next three months. 

3GB of data will be put onto each card once a month until January donated by An Post. New customers who join the network between now and the end of 2020 will have 1GB of data donated to this network each month. 

This data will not be removed from any data plan they are signed up to, it will be extra data donated by An Post.

For those who are already members of the mobile network, they will have the option of donating their own mobile data while they are topping up for an additional cost.

An Post Retail Managing Director Debbie Byrne said the organisation was “trying to do [its] bit” for homeless organisations and charities who do “such amazing work in the whole area of homelessness”. 

The initiative was launched earlier today at the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless people in Dublin.

The SIM cards are expected to be given to people through five homeless organisations next week -  St Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland, Simon Community, Merchant’s Quay Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust. 400 cards will be given to each one. 

This follows a previous initiative for homeless people launched by An Post earlier this year whencalled the Address Point. This enables people to generate a personal address based on their local post office. 

This service is established in nearly 200 post offices around the country and is used by 2,400 people, the organisation says. 

‘Something we may well do’

Manager of An Post Mobile Michael Ahern told TheJournal.ie that the data donating initiative is currently only in place for An Post Mobile users. Introducing other mobile providers to the initiative is “something we may well do” but it is yet to be decided, he said. 

“The organisations will allocate these SIM cards to those most in need,” said Ahern. “We will then load 3GB of data every month for three months.” 

People on pay-as-you-go topping up their mobiles will now have the option to spend a bit extra to donate data to the network of SIMs. 

Currently, the An Post network has no unlimited data plans so it is uncertain how this would be dealt with if it were to be included in the initiative. 

Deputy CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust Brian Friel said his organisation was “delighted” to be given the SIM cards. 

“Social inclusion is one of the Peter McVerry Trust’s vision statement… in this instance, digital inclusion is a major part of that. Our participants are increasingly making contact and staying in contact with others through social media. And you can’t do that without data,” said Friel. 

“This arrangement will enable them to keep contact with others and enable the Peter McVerry Trust to make contact with people on the streets.”

Friel said the cards will first be allocated to those who are “the most vulnerable” who use the charity’s services. 

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“Most people [who are homeless or living in emergency accommodation] would have a phone – homelessness can be quite chaotic. Phones get lost, they get broken they get stolen,” said Friel. 

“Where they don’t [have a phone], we’ll ensure they do so they can take advantage of this data opportunity.” 

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