The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge – Abuja, Nigeria

My blogging career flourished for a brief period – from August to October 2013 – while I was on my IBM Corporate Service Corps assignment in Uberlandia, Brazil (read all about it here -> My CSC Brazil blog). I enjoyed the act of writing down my thoughts and experiences while I did it – but just as quickly, got out of the habit. Now that I am about to head out on my next voluntary service assignment sponsored by my employer, IBM, I intend to brush off the cobwebs and get back to doing it on the regular.

This is Episode 1. As befits any Episode 1, some basics are in order

What is the Smarter Cities Challenge ?

In many ways, the Smarter Cities Challenge (SCC) is a logical progression from the Corporate Service Corps (CSC). The CSC program is IBM’s version of the Peace Corps, with teams of IBMers from around the globe being deployed to help NGOs in the developing world with their specific problems on a four-week project. My CSC experience in Brazil was ridiculously great.

The SCC program aims to help cities, counties and states solve challenging problems concerning governance, sustainability, and other urban issues of the day. Applicant cities go through a rigorous selection process, and the winning cities / states get a team of expert IBMers to study selected problems and devise solutions over a three-week deployment. The process of selecting IBMers for the deployment is no less rigorous.

More deets here -> IBM Smarter Cities Challenge

I applied for the program in 2014, hot on the heels of my Uberlandia, Brazil experience – and was lucky to be selected, but finding a suitable time for in-country deployment proved to be a challenge – until March 2017, when circumstances conspired and I was selected as a member of Team Abuja, deploying in May-June 2017.

Abuja is the capital of Nigeria. My current knowledge of the city is pretty much limited to what I could read up here -> Abuja Wiki. The fact that I don’t know much about the city or the country, and that I have never set foot in the continent of Africa are big contributors to my current excited state.

What I do know is that my team of five – three from the US, one from the UAE and one from Philippines – will be helping the Abuja Federal Capital Territory administration in the area of revenue collection. Our in-country deployment will run from May 12 to June 3.

At this moment, preparations are in full swing – from getting vaccinations for yellow fever and meningitis to applying for my visa to booking flights and hotels. The IBM program managers, for their part, have started weekly prep calls with the team, to get us acquainted with what’s ahead for us.

As I write this, there are but 11 days before I head out to Abuja. What will Abuja be like ? What exactly will my team be working on ? Watch this space !


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