(Ping! Zine) – IBM announced today that it has laucnhed the Smarter Cities Challenge, a competitive grant program in which IBM will award $50 million worth of technology and services to help 100 municipalities across the globe. Teams of IBM experts will provide city leaders with recommendations for successful growth, better delivery of municipal services, more citizen engagement, and improved efficiency.
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This new program is the single-largest philanthropic investment currently planned by IBM, which made US$186 million worth of charitable contributions in 2009, comprising cash, technology, and consulting services.
Over the next three years, IBM will send its top experts to those cities that have made the strongest case for participating in Smarter Cities Challenge. IBM consultants will immerse themselves in local issues involving the administration of healthcare, education, safety, social services, transportation, communications, sustainability, budget management, energy, and utilities.
IBM’s consultants and technology specialists will help municipalities analyze and prioritize their needs, review strengths and weaknesses, and learn from the successful strategies used by other cities. After studying the role that intelligent technology might play in uniting and advancing different aspects of city life, IBM will recommend concrete strategies designed to help make regions healthier, safer, smarter, more prosperous, and attractive to current and prospective residents and businesses.
A consistent theme will be collecting, sharing, analyzing and acting on data. For instance, IBM experts might suggest ways to link the processes and objectives of multiple departments to reduce cost and improve productivity. A city’s education program could be more effective if it was closely coordinated with social services, transportation, parks and recreation, public health, and safety. Police officers might be more effective if timely, customized information were electronically “pushed” to them while walking the beat or in transit. Citizen engagement could be improved if computer access were more widespread. Snow removal teams might be more efficiently deployed if ultra-precise weather data were obtained and analyzed.
Smarter Cities Challenge will draw upon IBM’s intrinsic technological savvy, but also upon the field experience accumulated by IBM over the last three years from the company’s ongoing pro bono Corporate Service Corps grant program. Corporate Service Corps deploys teams of top IBM employees from around the world with skills in technology, scientific research, marketing, finance, and business development. They work with local government, non profit civic groups, and small business to develop blueprints that intersect business, technology, and society. Teams have gone to work in places such as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Chengdu, China; and Katowice, Poland.
Inspired by that program’s enthusiastic acceptance, IBM is now creating the Smarter Cities Challenge to extend IBM’s expertise even more broadly. To ensure the success of Smarter Cities Challenge, IBM completed, or is conducting, a series of pilot grants in Baltimore, Maryland; Austin, Texas; and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Greater Charlotte). Those engagements are producing valuable insight into how cities might derive the greatest benefit from IBM’s expertise, and will serve as a model for engagements elsewhere.
“We are honored to have been the first city chosen for IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “Over the last number of weeks, we enjoyed brainstorming with IBM about making the delivery of Baltimore City’s citizen services even more effective. It was refreshing to hear new and creative points of view, and inspiring to hear about the successful approaches undertaken by other like-minded cities. I was particularly pleased that they quickly grasped our vision for the future, and offered strategies for realizing and even enhancing those potential plans.”
The approximate value of each Smarter Cities Challenge grant will be equivalent to US$400,000. Each team will comprise top IBM talent who will bring their unique expertise to the program. The engagement will be conducted in a collaborative, constructive and transparent manner, with IBM team members working alongside leaders from the public, private, and volunteer sectors.
The need for better city management has never been greater. In 2008, according to the United Nations, more than half the world’s human population began living in cities for the first time in the world’s history.
“Cities are vitally important to society and the economy,” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, and President of IBM’s Foundation. “But they have enormous challenges and need the innovation, creativity and technical know-how to tackle longstanding, tough issues and plan for the future. We’re excited at the prospect of helping city leaders address the most demanding challenges of our time and make their cities even more liveable.”
Municipalities will be selected competitively based on a number of criteria, including the ability to clearly articulate between two and four strategic issues that can potentially and reasonably be acted upon. Also considered will be the city’s track record of innovative problem solving, commitment to the use of technology and open data, and demonstrated willingness to provide access and time with city leaders and public engagement.
The most successful proposals will offer clear, compelling evidence that a particular city is poised to best utilize the resources offered in the Smarter Cities Challenge, that the grant has the potential to substantially enhance a city’s capacity to act on key issues, and that the city is ready to match IBM’s investment with its own commitment of time and talent. Municipalities of all sizes are eligible, but it is believed that cities with populations between 100,000 – 700,000 will gain the most from the experience.
Cities interested in researching, and potentially applying for, a Smarter Cities Challenge grant, can visit http://www.smartercitieschallenge.org.
Smarter Cities Challenge is sponsored by the international philanthropic foundation at IBM, which has been a leader in corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship for nearly 100 years. IBM implements initiatives to address specific vital issues such as the environment, community economic development, education, health, literacy, language, and culture. IBM employs its most valuable resources — technology and talent — to bring these programs to fruition. Since 2003, more than 150,000 IBM employees have shared more than 10 million hours of service, transforming communities in more than 70 countries. The expertise and time shared during that time is estimated to be valued at one-quarter of one billion U.S. dollars.
To learn more about IBM’s corporate citizenship initiatives, please visit: http://www.ibm.com/blogs/citizen-ibm. To learn more about People for a Smarter Planet on Facebook, please visit http://www.facebook.com/peopleforasmarterplanet.