A new ‘Civic Dollars’ mobile phone app, developed with support from Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice means that people can now earn rewards for the time they spend in their local parks and open spaces.
The Connswater Community Greenway will be the first area to go live in the free pilot scheme, followed by other parks across the city. Funded through the ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project, the scheme is part of the council’s Smart Belfast programme, which is exploring how data and innovative technologies can create smart solutions for urban challenges and help to improve city services.
Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “Exercising outside and connecting with nature really can help our mental wellbeing. So it’s fantastic that, thanks to this pilot scheme, people can now earn Civic Dollars for the time they spend in our parks and open spaces. They can enjoy rewards including travel on the Translink public transport system with DayLink passes, or tickets to visitor attractions, or support their local community group by donating Civic Dollars to them.
“The Civic Dollars app also provides a promotional platform for local businesses, services and events - and the insights we’ll gather will help us to better understand how people use green spaces, improve park management, reduce vandalism, littering and anti-social behaviour and enhance the visitor experience.”
A number of Belfast-based community groups can benefit from donated Civic Dollars, exchanging them for various services such as business training, professional advice and activity centre sessions.
The ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project is jointly funded by Belfast City Council and the Department of Justice via the Department for the Economy’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which enables the public sector to tap into new ideas and technologies created by innovative local businesses. It also gives innovators a great opportunity to trial and test their prototype in a supportive real-world environment as part of their product development.
Justice Minister, Naomi Long said: “Effectively managing public open spaces is a key element in developing a safe community, where we respect the law and each other.
“The Civic Dollars pilot scheme holds the potential to deliver real benefits to local communities by using technology to improve the safe use of our parks and open spaces; something that is so important for both physical and mental health. Congratulations to all involved in this innovative pilot scheme and I look forward to hearing how it has progressed as more people use it in the coming weeks and months.”
Stephen McPeake, CEO of local company Moai Digital Ltd and creator of the Civic Dollars app, added:“It’s been fantastic to have this opportunity to apply a tech based solution to Belfast City Council’s challenge of better managing their parks and open spaces. And it’s wonderful to know that local people, businesses and community groups will all benefit as a result when people download and use the Civic Dollars app. Life these days is about so much more than just money – it’s about improving our communities, and our own health and wellbeing – Civic Dollars provides the perfect solution with a new social currency. It’s a win win all round!”
For more information about the project, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/amazingspaces