In its largest philanthropic effort ever, IBM has selected 33 cities worldwide to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants during 2012.
Launched in 2011, this three-year, 100-city $50 million programIBM's single-largest philanthropic initiativefunds in-person engagements staffed by teams of top IBM experts, who study and then make detailed recommendations addressing locally important urban issues.
The goal of the grant program is to improve urban life in the selected cities, IBM said. As a major multinational corporation, IBM is big on public/private partnerships to advance the environment and the geopolitical landscape throughout the world.
For the second year 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 initiatives were for:
Â· economic and workforce developmentattracting a diverse variety of jobs and industries;
Â· transportationintegrating bus, rail, bicycle, car and pedestrian modes of transportation;
Â· sustainabilitymeasuring vehicle miles traveled more precisely to help lower pollution levels;
Â· healthusing inhaler and air quality data to identify and reduce asthma outbreaks;
Â· educationapplying data analytics to identify the most effective investments for improving an entire school system; and
Â· urban planningrevitalizing and redeveloping older neighborhoods.
Following are the cities that earned IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants in 2012: Accra, Ghana; Ahmedabad, India; Atlanta; Birmingham, U.K.; Boston; Cheongju, Korea; Chonburi, Thailand; Curitiba, Brazil; Da Nang, Vietnam; Dortmund, Germany; Durham, N.C.; Eindhoven, Netherlands; Geraldton, Australia; Houston; Ishinomaki, Japan; Jacksonville, Fla.; Jurong Lake District, Singapore; Louisville, Ky.; Malaga, Spain; Medellin, Colombia; New Taipei City, Taiwan; Nanjing, China; Nairobi, Kenya; Omaha, Neb.; Ottawa, Ontario; Pittsburgh; Pune, India; Rabat, Morocco; Rosario, Argentina; Siracusa, Italy; Surrey, British Columbia; Tshwane, South Africa; and Toluca, Mexico.
While the proposed projects were diverse, a common denominator was the willingness to exchange ideas and data freely among citizens, elected officials, nonprofits, businesses and city agencies so cities could make more informed and collaborative decisions, IBM officials said.
To that end, 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 issuesleading 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," Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, and president of IBM's Foundation, said in a statement. "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."
In a blog post about the success of IBMs Smarter Cities Challenge in his city, Mayor Stephen Mandel of Edmonton, Alberta, said:
The experience has been absolutely phenomenal for our staff. It was exciting, challenging and rewarding for everyone involved. It enabled us, as a city, to have greater confidence in the decisions we make each day. And I think that our citizens have seen the difference, as well.
For instance, our work with IBM has helped us implement a better communication plan during the winter months, which has previously been a challenge. Now we are reaching out through our Website and social media, making sure Edmontonians know what to expect in real time. This has reduced frustration, increased safety and generally made our city more accessible.
Recommendations made by IBM to 24 first-year Smarter Cities Challenge grant recipients in 2011, and to seven pilot cities in 2010, are already making a real impact, the company 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 the following:
Â· Glasgow, Scotland, is now subsidizing the heating bills of some of its seniors with the proceeds of clean-energy projects.
Â· Mecklenburg County, N.C., has signed agreements with all its municipalities to develop a consolidated capital budget planning process.
Â· St. Louis now more systematically coordinates efforts among agencies that touch public safety.
Â· Philadelphia fine-tuned a lifetime-learning initiative that promotes ongoing workforce development for better jobs.
Â· Edmonton, Alberta, now analyzes traffic data more rigorously to improve road safety
Â· Chicago 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 IBMs International Foundation. IBM has been a leader in corporate social responsibility and citizenship for more than 100 years.