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Cashless issue

November 06 2013
High tech comes to Swedish street paper


Homeless people in Stockholm who sell the Swedish version of the Big Issue have become ‘cashless’ – thanks to a new scheme which allows sellers to take payment by card on their smartphones.

A technology firm based in the capital has started supplying the vendors of Situation Sthlm – a magazine sold by the homeless on the streets of Stockholm – with new smartphones and card readers so that they can take payment digitally. The phones are kept at the magazine’s head office and charged overnight – before being picked up again by the sellers with their next batch of magazines. The scheme is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

The idea has echoes in a scheme trialled by the Big Issue North last year, which used technology in a printed card to allow people to buy a digital version of the magazine. Instead of the physical magazine, buyers would be given a small card with a code on it, which could be read by a mobile phone or entered onto a computer to be read online, anywhere.

At the time of the launch, Craig, a Big Issue vendor in Manchester, told the Guardian: “The magazine has to be competitive and if people stopped buying it we'd all be out of work.

“Hopefully the new digital edition will reach a new audience. It's also a good move for vendors as the new cards are easier to carry around than the magazine.”