IBM is extending the Smarter Cities Challenge competitive global grant program, through which more than 800 of IBM’s top experts have completed pro bono projects to help over 130 cities improve the quality of life for their residents. Below, IBM Vice President for Global Citizenship Initiatives Jen Crozier reflects on the program’s impact and the ongoing challenges facing the world’s cities.
The world’s cities are diverse and dynamic places, often serving as innovative laboratories for addressing pressing global trends. As reported by the UN in late 2016, the top issues affecting cities around the world today include urbanization, decentralization, migration and climate change.
In addition, the gap between the rich and poor in developed and developing countries is at its highest levels in three decades. The intersection of these urban trends with increasing inequality poses opportunities and challenges for cities around the world.
Meanwhile, rapid technological advances in big data and cognitive computing are empowering city leaders to make better decisions and deliver services more effectively, efficiently and equitably.
Through the Smarter Cities Challenge, we deploy our leading innovators to work alongside city leaders to understand their strategic challenges. Our teams leverage IBM’s cognitive computing, cloud capabilities and vast data resources, including weather data from IBM’s acquisition of The Weather Company, to create sustainable, data-driven solutions.
Past Smarter Cites Challenge winners have used insights from their grants to improve social services, public safety, economic opportunity, government transparency, citizen engagement, affordable housing, transportation, and water and energy. For example:
- Memphis, USA and IBM worked to decrease the demand for Emergency Management System (EMS) services by improving the city’s ability to provide targeted, preventive health services, reducing the incidence of non-emergency 911 calls. This will improve response times to real emergency calls while improving access to healthcare for the poor, who disproportionately use EMS as their primary medical provider.
- Pingtung County, Taiwan won the 2015 Energy Smart Communities Initiative (ESCI) Best Practices Award from among 200 submissions across Asia Pacific for its implementation of a smart microgrid, based on their Smarter Cities Challenge recommendations. The ESCI was launched in 2010 by President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
- Dublin, Ireland worked with IBM to assess the feasibility of adopting solar power, and ultimately successfully installed solar panels on the roofs of nearly all city government buildings.
- Porto Alegre, Brazil created Digital PoA, a program supporting the city’s new policy of open data to facilitate two-way dialogue among citizens and city officials to understand the priorities of citizens and allocate tax money accordingly, including adjusting public transportation routes to increase access to health facilities for underserved residents.
- Pyeongchang County, South Korea, host of the 2018 Olympics, is developing and promoting new tourism opportunities in the region that extend beyond the ski areas to the natural beauty in the southern part of the county. This will help close the socioeconomic gap that has existed in the county and lay the foundation for a stronger tourism industry beyond the Winter Games.
- Syracuse, USA, like many cities along the U.S. Rust Belt, has seen an outmigration of jobs and people from the city center to the suburbs. The resulting rise in vacant properties, exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis, has negative impacts across all segments of society. Syracuse used their Smarter Cities Challenge insights to identify neighborhoods that were at risk of increased home vacancy, and target their limited resources to stabilize neighborhoods where it would have the greatest impact.
With IBM’s continued advances in cognitive and cloud computing, the Smarter Cities Challenge’s 7th year promises to be the most impactful yet.
Starting today, we invite local, regional and general purpose governing bodies – including cities, counties, prefectures, boroughs and districts – to apply for a 2017-18 Smarter Cities Challenge grant. Visit smartercitieschallenge.org for complete information on how to apply, selection criteria and the stories of cities like yours that have partnered with us to transform themselves into better places to live, work and do business.
Jen Crozier is Vice President of Global Citizenship Initiatives with IBM Corporate Citizenship.