IBM experts positive about Belfast but highlight need to focus on long term

9 Oct 2013

Belfast communities are committed to making a difference in their city but need to make more time to focus on the future and less time looking back.

That is one of the conclusions reached by the six-person IBM team who visited the city for three weeks as part of its Smarter Cities Challenge, which aims to help cities around the world deal with pressing city problems.

Belfast was one of just 100 global cities, out of 400 cities that applied, to be chosen to take part in this three year philanthropic programme valued at $400,000 – making it the first on the island of Ireland and the third in the UK to be selected.

The team concluded that the city was in much better physical condition and its communities were much safer than many cities across the USA.

They found that the city has undergone impressive levels of regeneration work, provides significant opportunities for investment and is committed to providing resources to address social change.

IBM also stated that Belfast people were its biggest asset and they commented on the warmth of the welcome they received throughout their visit.

However, they pointed out that perceptions of inequality led to too many people being unwilling to leave their own communities for work and that the sense of belonging they felt in their own local areas needed to be translated into city-wide pride.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, said: “After three weeks of analysis they have provided the city with a set of recommendations to help us get a lot smarter about how to spend public money on addressing some of the challenges that our city faces.

“They have provided us with advice on how we collaborate across agencies so that as a city we can target public money only on the best interventions that will bring about real and long term improvements to people’s lives.

“The council will take the recommendations gifted to the city by IBM and work with other key city stakeholders and government departments to build a smart city information hub so that we can make better and evidence based decisions for the future of this city and its people.

“Councils are about to change fundamentally by 2015 and the powers of the city, particularly in relation to planning the future of communities, will greatly increase. The recommendations from IBM will be essential in making sure that we agree the right priorities for the city and how to deliver them with the resources we have. “