Belfast City Council has set up an online service to encourage local digital businesses to provide support to the public and third sector efforts in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has described www.CovidConnectNI.com as a “digital innovation matchmaking service”, and said it already has the support of the local branches of several major digital businesses.
The service is managed by Belfast City Council’s Innovation Team as part of the Smart Belfast programme, and runs on software developed by local company Xpand, which had already been working with the team on an SME engagement and market analysis platform.
The website provides functions for public sector, community and voluntary organisations to request support and for businesses to offer support, with the Innovation Team matching them up with an emphasis on building solutions quickly.
The site also provides functions for finding data through the Open Data NI hub and to make requests for public sector data, and a link to the Open Data Institute to request support in making data models and software as open as possible.
It also has information on funding opportunities and online events.
Belfast Lord Mayor Daniel Baker said: “The idea came about because we were receiving fantastic offers of help from our innovator community and lots of calls for help from those delivering key services during this crisis. Organisations are feeling the strain at the moment and, for some problems, digital can provide them with a solution.
“Belfast has a wealth of digital know-how, so it made perfect sense to match businesses with organisations across the region. Where possible, we hope that support can be offered on a pro bono or discounted basis.
“I’d encourage any organisation that feels it has something to offer, or that needs this kind of technical help, to register at www.CovidConnectNI.com.”
Among the companies already backing the initiative are EY, All State, Amazon Web Services, Analytics Engines, BT, Deloitte, Digital Catapult NI, Farset Labs, KMPG, Microsoft, PwC and Salesforce have already pledged their support.
Seamus McAleavey chief executive of NICVA, the umbrella body of the region’s voluntary and community sector, commented: “Organisations that have developed a clear sense of how a digital solution will help meet their challenge will be able to seek help on the platform.”
Image: Belfast City Hall by Wknight94 (own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons