IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge assists municipalities address critical issues

IBM has announced the recipients of its Smarter Cities Challenge for 2014, a competitive grant program that sends teams of some of IBM’s most talented experts to select cities and regions worldwide to provide expertise on the most critical issues faced by communities today. Through the Smarter Cities Challenge, IBM will be helping at least 16 cities and counties around the world this year to address issues ranging from clean water, healthy food, and revenue generation, to job development, efficient transportation, and public safety. Two African cities and one region were selected as recipients this year: Abuja in Nigeria, Durban in South Africa and Mombasa County, Kenya.

smart cities_ssFor these pro bono consultative engagements, IBM teams invest months studying a local issue chosen by a winning municipality.  They then spend three weeks on the ground in the region gathering and analyzing all relevant data and reports, while meeting in person with dozens of members of the government, citizen, business, and not-for-profit communities. In doing so, they gather diverse perspectives about the factors involved and potential solutions to the opportunity at hand. At the conclusion of these studies, IBM presents comprehensive recommendations for addressing the issue in line with recognized “best practices.” This is followed weeks later by a more detailed, written plan for its implementation.

In its first three years, IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge deployed 600 experts on six-person teams that provided strategic and practical advice to 100 municipalities. These highly prized three-week engagements, each currently valued at USD $500,000, have helped local government address key challenges.

Given that effective local governance today relies on the coordination of multiple municipalities, IBM made regional governments eligible for the grant program this year, not just cities. With the previous participation of 100 cities, the Smarter Cities Challenge program now also offers winning municipalities access to fellow leaders with whom to consult on similar issues, so as to share strategies that have been effective elsewhere.

IBM will work with municipalities this year that seek its input on projects such as the following:
·         Improving transportation options by connecting roads, bikepaths, sidewalks and rails
·         Protecting the environment with better water quality
·         Collecting revenue, lowering costs and managing budgets more efficiently
·         Leveraging local industries and natural resources for tourism and economic development
·         Making more nutritious and affordable food available in urban neighborhoods
·         Harnessing the sun and converting waste products into electrical energy
·         Preserving public safety during dangerous weather and man made events
·         Decreasing high crime impacts in blighted neighborhoods      

Jennifer Crozier, IBM’s vice president of Global Citizenship Initiatives, and whose team directs the Smarter Cities Challenge, said, “Congratulations to all of the cities and regional governments that have secured IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants for 2014. If history is any guide, these municipalities can look forward to tapping a treasure trove of skills and knowledge from some of IBM’s best and brightest.  By collaborating with our experts, local governments will be receiving valuable counsel that could very well influence the success of issues that are foremost on the local agenda.  We hope to be a useful resource to the winning cities and regions and be a catalyst for progress.”


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