A popular new website that helps people in Newcastle feel safer in the city centre will now be developed further thanks to government funding.
www.howbusyistoon.com is the brainchild of a digital partnership between Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University and NE1. It has been developed using real-time data to show how busy it is in the city centre at a certain time, and initially launched to coincide with the easing of social distancing measures across the country at the beginning of July.
Since its launch the site has proved to be a very popular tool for local people, with over 25,000 visits to the site. It has also received significant levels of interest from local authorities and other organisations across the country and can now be further developed after receiving funding from the government’s Local Digital Fund.
Newcastle City Council is one of eleven local authorities that has been recognised as using innovation to better serve residents and help to solve common problems facing councils as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been awarded £67,500 to build on the early success of the website and to work with local people to understand how they would like this to be developed and what additional information they would like to be available on it.
Cllr Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture said: “In the short time this website has been live it has made quite an impact and has become a popular tool for local people as they return to the city centre.
“It is a great example of how data can benefit everyday life, increase public confidence in a safe return to the high street and support economic renewal, which is obviously vital at this time.
“It is also a great example of Newcastle being a smart city and how this benefits everyone who lives here and visits. The strong digital partnerships and collaborative working ongoing in this city continues to be recognised nationally and further afield and is often held up as an example of best practice.
“And I’m convinced that with Newcastle Helix, the home of National Innovation Centre for Data, and the great partnerships we have built up through that, this is just the start of an incredible journey.
“The funding awarded for the website is a great example of this and I would like to acknowledge the hard work of everyone involved.”
Adrian Waddell, Chief Executive of NE1 Ltd said: “It is excellent to see this innovative idea developed in Newcastle receiving national recognition and essential development money. We are really looking forward to building on this work – initiated by Newcastle University’s National Innovation Centre for Data and Urban Observatory in partnership with the city council and with NE1.
“The important next stage is to find out more about how people want to use this information and adapt it so it is suitable for everyday use.
“The city centre economy is interconnected across all sectors and any measures that improve people’s confidence in using the city, including office workers, shoppers, students, and other visitors needs to be given every encouragement. Tools like How Busy is Toon can help build public confidence by allowing people to make informed decisions about when they visit the city.”