“We’re all doing our best to cope with the challenges posed by Covid-19 – and daily exercise outside really can help,” said Belfast Lord Mayor, Alderman Frank McCoubrey.
The app also benefits the city too, according to McCoubrey. “The data we’ll gather from its usage will help us to better understand how people use green spaces in the city.”
Users can use the app to report litter or antisocial behaviour directly to the council.
However, although the app is designed to make people healthier, it does not track what people do in the park – meaning tennis players will earn the same amount as people there for a sedentary picnic.
“People don’t have to be running or jogging around the park, they can go and sit on a park bench, enjoy the mindfulness, enjoy the birds singing and hopefully the sun, and they can still earn civic dollars for doing that,” said Stephen McPeake, founder of the Belfast based start-up behind the app, which is also called Civic Dollars.
Councils can also incentivise people to visit different parks by paying people more to visit one park over another.
“You can have a higher earn value in the parks that are underutilised or historically quiet” said McPeake.
The tech founder has been in talks with cities across the UK, Ireland and Europe.
Leeds is the next city planning to launch a civic dollars trial in four parks this spring, although users will only be able to use their civic dollars to donate to local community groups, not to buy rewards.
Stephen Blackburn, who is overseeing the project at Leeds Council, said: “A rewards basis is another angle to get people watching the TV into the park and going for a nice walk.”