IT experts to help boost Belfast
A special group of international experts from one of the world's largest IT companies is to visit Belfast to help overhaul how the city is run.
It is the first place on the island to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant worth 400,000 dollars (£252,000) to recommend ways to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
Belfast will decide which area it wants to focus on, then global specialists will help develop a plan to achieve radical change.
Belfast Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson said: "This is an absolute win-win for our city. To have this level of world-leading expertise at our disposal is an incredible opportunity.
"We are intent on making Belfast a world-class city for tourism and foreign direct investment with strong local industries. But that aim requires us to recognise that we have significant pockets of persistent disadvantage in the city and still have a legacy of sectarian division which must be tackled."
IBM has expertise in data management but also a diverse range of other disciplines. It delivers contracts across the world on a range of projects and can also bring in expertise from other companies. The business operates in more than 170 countries and styles itself as a global business and technology leader which innovates in research and development.
Belfast became the third UK city to be awarded the grant. A total of 100 municipalities from around the world were selected.
The successful Belfast bid follows the announcement two months ago that the city is to receive £13.7 million as part of the UK Government's Super-connected Cities project to make it one of the world's leading digital locations.
Stanley Litow, president of IBM's International Foundation, said: "Belfast City Council distinguished itself among its peers by convincingly demonstrating its preparation and willingness to make the kind of improvements that will improve its residents' quality of life and become a smarter city.
"We consider it a privilege to share with Belfast the talent and expertise of our most gifted employees, who are the envy of the industry. They have premier skills in a range of disciplines - all useful for helping to build smarter cities and a smarter planet."