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Edinburgh rolls out health and wellbeing apps


City council begins to market mobile apps that emerged as finalists in its civic challenge programme

City of Edinburgh Council has thrown its weight behind the take-up of a handful of mobile apps aimed at promoting health and wellbeing, following their emergence as finalists in its annual EdinburghApps challenge.

While Edinburgh has not declared an overall winner, it has highlighted four projects that were pitched at a recent event.

Among them is agameofwalks, developed with Sustrans, a charity that encourages people to travel by foot, bike or public transport. It uses gamification to encourage children to walk to school, guiding them along safe routes while prompting them to play games based on what they see around them.

Two of the apps are aimed at reducing loneliness: Meet and Eat, developed with the NHS, helps to bring strangers together for meals; and Open Doors, a partnership with the health and social care team, is a social media app for elderly people.

The fourth is ChatterCare, a webchat tool also developed with health and social care, which provides a platform for people with cognitive difficulties to share information and experiences. It enables them to have conversations through a range of channels, including live chat and video conferencing, and includes adaptive technology to make it more accessible.

Open data

It is the third year that the council has run the challenge, which is aimed at promoting the development of new digital solutions to support services, social change in the city and the sharing of civic data. It also ties in with the council's open data strategy, encouraging the reuse of its portal data and with the datasets being shared for each challenge.

Claudette Jones, Edinburgh's chief information officer, said there is a marketing programme for each finalist app, and the council's ICT Solutions team is promoting them as examples of its strategy, emphasising the agile and user-centred approaches to their development.

Whether they are made freely available for other councils depends on the business that developed the individual apps, as they own the intellectual property.

“This year's teams are at an early stage of product development,” Jones said. “Some are happy to share their ideas, hardware and software. Others are already thinking how their minimum viable product will develop into a fully commercial product.”

She added that City of Edinburgh has previously developed products for which it has made the source code freely available for reuse, and that it is considering whether to run the challenge, or a different programme, next year.

Exploring options

“We have learnt a lot through the development of this programme, and are keen to see where we can take it next,” she said. “We will be exploring different options, including how new solutions could be shared with other local councils, how to work on new developments with our new ICT partner, CGI, and how sharing our data can inform challenges we put forward through EdinburghApps.”

Jones also highlighted the role of the challenge in promoting the city's digital economy, which includes a number of young companies and a community of designers and technology specialists.

“Externally, it encourages the growth of relationships and partnerships with partners in various sectors, as well as a recognition of the talent being developed through Edinburgh’s universities and the wider technology hubs,” she said.

Image from Victorgrigas, Creative Commons 3.0 through Wikimedia

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