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July 11, 2012

Gaining the ‘Local Edge’

The community sector is not particularly renowned for being ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to embracing new technology or the fast evolving world of social media. But that could be starting to change. Two media savvy groups in Edinburgh are collaborating in the development of a phone app which could change the way we gather and use local news and provide a boost to local economies at the same time.


Taken from Greener Leith website.

Two of Edinburgh’s oldest and best known community news providers have won major funding from the UK innovation foundation Nesta to develop a news and loyalty-card phone application for the capital.

Environmental charity Greener Leith and ‘independent stirrer’ the Broughton Spurtle – based in adjacent and partly overlapping parts of north/central Edinburgh – teamed up with Edinburgh technology company Tigatag to propose a ‘Local Edge’ phone app.

The principle of the winning idea is to develop a phone app that acts as a virtual loyalty card for the benefit of local shops and services. It can also reward those who participate in civic activities with vouchers that can be spent at participating local stores.

In a parallel thread, it will also allow users to receive and post geographically relevant news and information on their mobile phones, thus increasing the news-sites’ immediacy and interactivity.

The project funding is worth £44,750 which will be used to develop software and cover start-up marketing. Local Edge was among 10 proposals chosen from 165 applications as part of Destination Local, a major new £1million programme led by Nesta and the Technology Strategy Board.

Launched in March this year, it is designed to understand and stimulate the development of a UK hyperlocal media sector. An external judging panel sifted the applications according to Nesta’s criteria (see link above). They also looked to support projects that would complement each other and provide a portfolio of learning for the wider sector.

The panel felt that the Local Edge proposal was ‘very strong and had some great ideas on how [they] would take the service forward’.

Commenting after the announcement, Spurtle Chair David Sterratt said: “At a time when independent businesses are under enormous pressure due to the recession, national-chain competition and tramwork disruption, we hope this scheme will be a shot in the arm for local shops and services.

“If successful, it could also provide an additional, stream of revenue for our news outlets and and allow us to improve what we offer readers.”

Charlotte Encombe, Chairperson of Greener Leith said: “We are delighted with this NESTA announcement of funding.

“With our partners The Broughton Spurtle and Tigatag we can now build on Greener Leith’s previous campaigns to promote local shopping and develop a series of apps that will enable businesses in Leith and Broughton to promote their products to locals in a cost effective way.

“Furthermore, if the app is a success, it has the potential to support the development of neighbourhood community news projects throughout the country.”

Bruno Panara, Tigatag said: “In a time when worldwide online services make the headlines for their million-user campaigns, it’s refreshing to see services that can help much smaller local communities take advantage of mobile technology.

“Nesta has given us the chance to work with our partners to deliver a really exciting piece of technology that can improve the quality of the life in Broughton and Leith, while being a fun app to use and collect rewards from.

“We hope the service will also be a success with local shops, providing a simple way into online marketing that can deliver consistent value that can be exported to help businesses in other areas.”