IBM taps 33 cities worldwide for "smarter cities" grants

IBM has selected 33 cities worldwide  eight in the U.S.  to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants during 2012.

The Smarter Cities Challenge, launched in 2011, is a competitive grant program awarding $50 million worth of IBM expertise over three years to 100 cities around the globe. Designed to address the wide range of challenges facing cities today, these grants have addressed topics including urban agriculture and public safety.

U.S. cities receiving smarter cities grants in 2012 include Atlanta; Boston; Durham, N.C.; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla..; Louisville, Ky.; Omaha, Neb.; and Pittsburgh. Cities in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe as well as Canada and Central and South America received grants. Each of the 33 cities was awarded $400,000 of consulting services from IBM. The company will deploy six-person teams for three-week visits to each city, helping officials with projects ranging from health to urban planning.

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The winning cities proposed projects and areas of focus for IBM experts including economic and workforce development, transportation, sustainability, health, education and urban planning. The proposed projects were diverse, but a common denominator was the willingness to exchange ideas and data freely between and among citizens, elected officials, nonprofits, businesses and city agencies so cities could make more informed and collaborative decisions, IBM officials said.

Pittsburgh, for example, will use IBM's expertise for a comprehensive transportation plan, called MovePGH. The plan will rank capital projects, encourage transportation innovations and link transportation to neighborhood growth, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

IBM will provide special assistance to each winning city on the use of City Forward, 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 Litow, IBM vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, and president of IBM's Foundation.

"These cities demonstrated a desire to set an example for other municipalities, an eagerness to collaborate with multiple stakeholders, and a strong commitment to consider implementing recommendations the city felt would be the most feasible and beneficial to their residents."

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 an impact, IBM officials said. 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, is now subsidizing the heating bills of some of its seniors with the proceeds of clean-energy projects 
  • Mecklenburg County, N.C., has signed agreements with all its municipalities to develop a consolidated capital budget planning process. 
  • St. Louis now more systematically coordinates efforts among agencies that touch public safety. 
  • Philadelphia fine-tuned a lifetime-learning initiative that promotes ongoing workforce development for better jobs.
  • Edmonton, Alberta, now analyzes traffic data more rigorously to improve road safety.
  • Chicago will partner with corporations to open five technology schools this autumn that blend high school and community college and which provide marketable skills.
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 officials noted.

The following cities earned IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants in 2012:

  • Accra, Ghana.
  • Ahmedabad, India.
  • Atlanta. 
  • Birmingham, UK. 
  • Boston. 
  • Cheongju, Korea. 
  • Chonburi, Thailand. 
  • Curitiba, Brazil 
  • Da Nang, Vietnam. 
  • Dortmund, Germany. 
  • Durham, N.C., USA. 
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands. 
  • Geraldton, Australia. 
  • Houston.
  • Ishinomaki, Japan. 
  • Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
  • Jurong Lake District, Singapore. 
  • Louisville, Ky., USA. 
  • Malaga, Spain. 
  • Medellin, Colombia. 
  • New Taipei City, Taiwan. 
  • Nanjing, China. 
  • Nairobi, Kenya. 
  • Omaha, Neb., USA. 
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 
  • Pittsburgh.
  • Pune, India. 
  • Rabat, Morocco. 
  • Rosario, Argentina. 
  • Siracusa, Italy. 
  • Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. 
  • Tshwane, South Africa. 
  • Toluca, Mexico. 

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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