IBM has selected 33 cities worldwide to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants during 2012, and the city of Tshwane was a recipient.
Launched in 2011, this three-year, 100-city US$50 million program, IBM’s single-largest philanthropic initiative, funds in-person engagements staffed by teams of top IBM experts, who study and then make detailed recommendations addressing locally important urban issues.
For year-two of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, cities around the world once again competed vigorously to benefit from IBM’s human talent and technology. The winning cities proposed intriguing projects and areas of focus for IBM experts. They included initiatives for:
¬∑ Economic and Workforce Development — attracting a diverse variety of jobs and industries
¬∑ Transportation — integrating bus, rail, bicycle, car and pedestrian modes of transportation
¬∑ Sustainability — measuring vehicle miles traveled more precisely to help lower pollution levels
¬∑ Health — using inhaler and air quality data to identify and reduce asthma outbreaks
¬∑ Education — applying data analytics to identify the most effective investments for improving an entire school system
¬∑ Urban Planning- – revitalising and redeveloping older neighborhoods
Following are the cities that earned IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants in 2012:
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Da Nang, Vietnam
Durham, North Carolina, USA
Houston, Texas, USA
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Jurong Lake District, Singapore
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
New Taipei City, Taiwan
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Tshwane, South Africa
While the proposed projects were diverse, a common denominator was the willingness to exchange ideas and data freely between and among citizens, elected officials, non-profits, businesses, and city agencies so cities could make more informed and collaborative decisions.
To that end, IBM will provide special assistance to each winning city on the use of City Forward (http://www.cityforward.org), a free online site IBM created with public policy experts. Citizens, elected officials and urban planners can use the site to explore trends and statistics in a visual and accessible way, which can be adapted for the examination of any number of urban issues — leading to better decision making.
“The cities that have been selected are all different, but they have one clear similarity: the strong personal commitment by the city’s leadership to put in place the changes needed to help the city make smarter decisions,”” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, and President of IBM’s Foundation.
Recommendations made by IBM to 24 year-one Smarter Cities Challenge grant recipients in 2011, and to seven pilot cities in 2010, are already making a real impact. For instance, as a direct result of IBM’s work, the following cities have made public policy changes or launched important new initiatives that address longstanding issues. These include:
¬∑ Glasgow, Scotland (UK) is now subsidising the heating bills of some of its seniors with the proceeds of clean-energy projects
¬∑ Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (USA) has signed agreements with all its municipalities to develop a consolidated capital budget planning process
¬∑ St. Louis, Missouri (USA) now more systematically coordinates efforts among agencies that touch public safety
¬∑ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) fine-tuned a lifetime-learning initiative that promotes ongoing workforce development for better jobs
¬∑ Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) now analyses traffic data more rigorously to improve road safety
¬∑ Chicago, Illinois (USA) will partner with corporations to open five technology schools this autumn that blend high school and community college and which provide marketable skills
The need to use new approaches to address civic challenges has never been greater. In 2008, according to the United Nations, more than half the world’s population began living in cities for the first time. These population centers are more economically powerful, politically influential, and technologically advanced than at any time in history. But they also struggle with budgetary and operational challenges.
IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge is an outgrowth of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps grants program, in which IBM deploys teams of top employees to areas in the developing world to work on projects that intersect business, technology, and society. Since the launch of Corporate Service Corps in 2008, nearly 1,400 IBM employees based in 50 countries have been dispatched on more than 140 team assignments in 24 countries.
The Smarter Cities Challenge is sponsored by IBM’s Corporate Citizenship program and IBM’s International Foundation. IBM has been a leader in corporate social responsibility and citizenship for more than 100 years.
* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza