First impressions of Baton Rouge

Hello folks! My name is Marie Wallace and I’m one of the Baton Rouge Smarter Cities Challenge team. I’m from Dublin Ireland and this is my first time visiting the state of Louisiana; actually its also my first time visiting the South, something that’s been on my bucket list for years, so I’m super excited to be here. I’m going to let the rest of the team introduce themselves over the coming days, however since I’m one of the first of our team to arrive I thought I would get the ball rolling on our blog.

I arrived into Baton Rouge yesterday (Saturday) to be greeted by our Program Manager, Anne McNeill, who is a Baton Rouge native and one of the friendliest folks I’ve ever met. I thought us Irish were talkers, but I’ve now discovered that you guys from Louisiana could give us a run for our money ;-)

Everyone has been so great and have really made us feel at home. Arriving on the day of the Tigers LSU game was fortuitous as I not only got to attend the game (Wow, you guys really know how to put on a show) but also got to attend my first ever “tailgate” (one of Anne’s old friends kindly invited us to theirs). For any Irish folks reading this, a tailgate is where you set up camp beside your car and have a big party.  Yes, you will see a bit of a pattern emerging; everyone here loves to party. The food was amazing and the company even better. I want to give a big shout-out to Debra Ourso, our tailgate host, for being so warm and inviting and really making us feel at home.

Below are some photos to give you a sense of the party which is an LSU game. And for anyone who is not from Louisiana, I’d strongly recommend getting it on your bucket list.



Debra making sure that we are all well-fed, and boy was the food good. When I was flying into Baton Rouge I was sitting beside a lovely Louisiana native who asked me if I had brought my stretchy pants with me, and now I understand why. The food is so amazing here.


Some ingenious folks beside us who actually brought their own electric ceiling fan which they attached to a tree, how cool or what!


The Tigers mascot. I got to see the real tiger later in the day chilling out in his habitat. It was so cute, he was lying on his back stretching his legs up in the air. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap a photo of that.



The pre-game show with a HUGE marching band, dancers, and flag bearers. Very impressive.


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SCC Ballarat : Preparation & Planning

Exciting times as we prepare for our Smarter Cities Challenge in Ballarat Australia to help identify ways to address waste management to support their rapidly expanding population.    I am looking forward to meeting my IBM colleagues  Nitin Gaur, Josh Millen, Mike Peach, Ravi Mandalika when we start work with the city on 5 October.  Until then, lots to learn about IBM’s smarter waste management offerings.

Read more about the Ballarat grant here.

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Thank you for “supporting dreams” in Valparaíso

Back in June this year we started an initiative to collect money to reconstruct homes and rebuild communities, where the devastating fires destroyed so much back in April this year.

After having released the first payment to JAB we got a thanks-letter today, which I attach in here. It basically says:

Thanks letter

Thanks letter

“…thanks for supporting dreams and recreate the beauty of our neighborhood. A big appreciation from the affected neighbors, for the first payment / donation of 858.444 CLP and for supporting the “Cerro Ramaditas” for rebuilding their community in this territory, which was so much damaged by the fire.”

We – the IBM team “Smart Neighbors” – are proud and grateful for everyone supporting this initiative, especially as we know the area, we know JAB and we know it lands, where it is needed. So we have released the second part of your donations today and we say thank you, for

2.150 USD / ~ 1.250.000 CLP,

donated to our project on

Thank you!

#smartercities challenge

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Proud to partner with the eThewkwini Municipality

Greetings from eThekwini Municipality

Our IBM Smarter Cities Challenge has come to an end and we have delivered our recommendations on how to best solve several difficult issues facing the eThekwini Municipality. These included helping to address business investment, to stimulate the entrepreneurial environment, and to help address skills gaps.

On behalf of IBM, thank you to all who gave their time and energy to make this philanthropic partnership successful.

We met with over 250 dedicated professionals and citizens during our 3 week visit. One common theme that was clear to all of us was that the people of eThekwini are indeed passionate and dedicated to solving the tough problems faced within your communities. We visited townships, informal traders in the markets, business incubators, and several academic institutions in addition to meetings with virtually every department throughout the city’s government. We were commissioned to provide recommendations to make the municipality of eThekwini “a smarter city.”

As you know, for us, this was an effort to give back to the global community – and again, it inspires us to see what a great job you’re already doing. More importantly, we see the true potential of your country, your people and your communities – and we wish you the best of luck on the journey ahead.

Again, many thanks from all of us on the IBM team.


SCC Durban Final Presentation Group Photo 1

Left to Right:  Doug Smith (IBM), Lauren Luellwitz (IBM), Ndu Emuchay (IBM), Madame Deputy Cllr Nomvuzo Shabalala, Mr. City Manager, Sibusiso Sithole, Marie Esposito (IBM), Chris MacLaughlin (IBM), Cllr Mqiniseni Zwane, Robyn Massey (IBM), Speaker Cllr Loganathan Naidoo, Deputy City Manager: Community & Emergency Services Dr. Musa Gumede,

A4 EThekwini Logo

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eThekwini Municipality: Faces of the Future

Greetings from eThekwini Municipality

Our time in the eThekwini Municipality is drawing to a close. Thanks to the people of the eThekwini Municipality we have had an amazing three weeks during our Smarter Cities Challenge. Due to the immersive nature of experience we have lived and worked in the City and feel like honorary citizens. A big part of the Challenge has been thinking about how to better help citizens through stimulating economic development. So we reflecting on everyone who lives, goes to school and works in Municipality.

As we prepare our final recommendations that we will share with the Municipality, we want to thank our hosts and especially Dr. Musa Gumede, Deputy City Manager: Community & Emergency Services, who has been our Executive Liaison.

In looking ahead, we see a bright future in the eyes of the young people in eThekwini Municipality. Here are a few of our favorite pictures

SCC DUrban Kids resizedIMG_1575 resized

IMG_1459 IMG_1580 resized        SCC Durban Tourism Office at the Stadium resized

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eThekwini Muncipality’s special place in the history of social change

Greetings from eThekwini Municipality, South Africa

eThekwini municipality boasts three important historical sites related to the struggle for racial and social equality. They include the place where:  Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in 1994, the Ohlange Institute, founded by John Dube, the first president of the ANC and Mohandas Ghandi’s house

The sites are part of the The Inanda Heritage Route:

(1) Nelson Mandela cast his first vote at the Ohlange Institute in Durban when democratic elections were held in 1994.  He chose the site because the first president of the African National Congress, Dr. John L. Dube, established this school in 1901.  We went to the polling location where Mandela cast his vote and were inspired by his words: “When I walked into the voting station, my mind dwelt on the heroes who had fallen so that I might be where I was that day, the men and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause that was now finally succeeding.”

(2) John Dube House, was built in 1906 for John Dube, founder and first principal of the Ohlange Institution, also first president of the ANC. It is a national monument

(3) And nearby is the  house of where Mohandas Ghandi lived while he was living and working in Durban. It was during his time in South Africa that he had a spiritual awakening and began formulating his thoughts on racial equality and civil unrest.  His house is he  called Sarvodaya – Well Being for All.  The original house was built in 1904 and was burnt down during the 1985 Inanda Riots and was rebuilt and inaugurated in 2000.

IMG_1577    15140109325_a6bc82410f_o

14953565718_8e82f9a33b_o  SCC Durban Heritage Tour Logo


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Teaming with Business to drive growth in eThekwini Municipality

Greetings from eThekwini Municipality

In our continuing “deep dive” into the municipality of eThekwini, we met with the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Coalition that is chartered to partner with government to foster job creation and growth in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.  As Andrzef Kiepiela from the Coalition explained, there are many reasons why businesses would want to locate to KwaZulu-Natal.

SCC DUrban DIPA Logo

From the Municipality, we met with Russell Curtis, from the Durban Investment Promotion Agency which is a partnership between the city of Durban and the private business sector. It offers a FREE investor advisory service and acts as a facilitator between businesses and local stakeholders.  He outlined for us, the “Super 7″ reasons to do business in eThekwini Municipality:

  1. Award winning Municipality. We have the best run and financially strongest local government on the continent. Awards are bestowed through the likes of the Vuna awards – recognising Durban as being the best-run city in South Africa, with nearly 20 000 employees. International credit rating agencies give us AA+ grade credit ratings off an annual budget of approximately $3Bn US Dollars or R35Bn p.a. Amongst many other business enablers, we have a huge, expanding fibre optic system to also really make Durban THE Smart City of Africa! We are the biggest and busiest City in the province of KwaZulu-Natal; a core BRICS City where partnerships for development, integration and industrialisation begins.
  1. Lifestyle of business, sports and event pleasure together. This is a place to live, work and play. We are blessed with a truly sustainable lifestyle, sporting events and sense of business pleasure. The emphasis for us is on the word ‘together’, it’s the two complementary halves in each of us which is reflected in our City: the business or career half and also the social, sporting and lifestyle-family side.
  1. 3. Largest Human Resources base. At the heart of one of SA’s most populace Provinces (KwaZulu-Natal), we have large pools of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour, plus some of the best and fastest Skills Development taking place amongst our 3,8M cosmopolitan population. For E.g., we have Africa’s 2nd largest direct contact University based in Durban, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with over 45,000 direct contact tertiary students of African, Asian, European & Middle Eastern decent.
  1. Higher growth rates. Our economic growth rates are higher than the country’s average, and that of other major centres, prior to the financial crises, in the region of +/-5%. We’re targeting in that range again, & as a global Port City the tide is in our favour. This impacts positively on Business Confidence Levels, fixed capital formation, etc. As most analysts would observe, “the growth trend is our friend” in Durban.
  1. Infrastructure Leader. We have the continent’s leading infrastructure base. This includes virtual infrastructure like globalised financial services, & our physical infrastructure base. Durban has the best electricity distribution on the continent, a vast roads network, best water treatment & supply base, & telecomm’s via our City owned fibre optic networks. We have reasonable amounts of available vacant land at realistic prices across our 2 300 km2 City. As a BRICS City, we are South Africa’s gateway to the BRICS Grouping. At our infrastructure heart, Durban leads the continent in terms of port infrastructure, with SADC’s busiest harbour, plus the expanded King Shaka International Airport & Aerotropolis.
  1. Tourism Crown. Durban is the largest domestic tourism destination in South Africa with abundant accommodation across all grading’s, plus we have concrete projects in place to become one of the largest international tourism destinations. This is done through an ‘event-led’ tourism drive across both business and pleasure tourism. Our International Convention Centre is rated by global associations as Africa’s best convention centre for the last 11 years. On the leisure front, we have successfully hosted high profile events such as the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup event, with associated infrastructure upgrades (R15Bn+.), the UN COP17 Climate Conference, the International Olympic Committee Awards Conference, BRICS Global Summit, etc. We are presently SA’s sole bid city for the Commonwealth Games, plus 2024 Olympics.
  1. Substantial, & most Sustainable diversified business base already in place across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. It’s a case of functional magnetism with companies benefitting from synergistic location, at scale. Over 65% of the Province’s GGP is produced in Durban, and the Durban Chamber of Commerce is the oldest & largest Metro Chamber nationally. Business is clustered around the manufacturing, tourism, services, ICT, maritime & logistics, plus agri-industries. Having the second largest concentrated business & industrial base in SA provides many options for suppliers, support services, customers, and employees – all important factors of production.

Interested?  Here are Russell’s contact details:

Russell Curtis, eThekwini Municipality, 41 Margaret Mncadi Avenue, 11th Floor, Durban, South Africa, 4001    Tel: +27 31 311 4227

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