Tag Archives: #smarter traffic

One Week in the Birthplace of Democracy

I was born in the largest democracy in the world and for the past 2 decades have been living in the oldest democracy. But it was only after landing in the Greek capital city of Athens last week did the word “democracy” (and so many other things we take for granted today) started to make sense. The concept of a democratic society, such as the one many countries in the world today enjoy, began in the Greek capital some 2500 years ago. The land of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle offers not only a richness of philosophy but the air is filled with an overwhelming sensation of art, culture, science and history. It is not by accident that the city of Athens is sometimes referred to as the cradle of Western civilization. Despite the glorious past, Athens realizes a need to make itself better for its citizens through innovation and technology  and it was thus chosen as one of the winners of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge (SCC) earlier this year.

CSR & SCC background for the uninitiated

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not a lip service in IBM. There are a vast range of programs that enable and encourage IBMers to contribute their talent to local communities in addition to donations and corporate grants. As part of one of IBM’s Global CSR initiative, a competition is held every year inviting city governments & mayors around the world to apply for grants in solving their most pressing problem. After a highly competitive selection process known as the Smarter cities challenge (SCC), a handful of cities are declared winners to which IBM then sends a handpicked team of highly experienced employees to work pro-bono for three weeks.  In short, we are helping to build sustainable, vibrant economies with strong public services, using strategy, process improvement, technology innovations, data & analytics.

 So why am I here?

The three week long SCC Athens assignment that I and five other IBM executives from around the globe (Una Du Noyer from UK, Angela Borrachero Mendibil, from Spain, Scott Neuman from the Czech Republic, Todd Appel, and Dean Philips from the US) are here for, acquires a monumental stature in wake of current state of affairs with the economy of Greece, the timing of the assignment and strategic significance of the issues today’s Athens faces from transportation, travel, tourism, parking and traffic. After studying and analyzing the issues in depth, we aim to come up with strategic roadmap and actionable recommendations to improve the quality of life in the historical and commercial city center by reducing traffic congestion and reclaiming public spaces.

Getting the vibe of the City and the Assignment

The smarter city challenges are designed to be intense “stay away from normal work and family” while immersing in the culture and issues of the subject city. To facilitate our cultural immersion, IBM Greece’s wonderful corporate citizenship manager Xenia Zoppa and her team have left no stone unturned. Here’s how:

  1. Choosing our place of stay: At first sight, across from our home for three weeks the Hotel Grande Bretagne near the Greek Parliament, in the fascinating and maddening metropolis of Athens, you only need to raise your eyes a couple hundred feet above the skyline to fall in love with the architectural perfection of majestic Acropolis. One of the seven wonders of the Ancient world, this iconic citadel represents everything the Athenians were and still aspire to be. The temple Parthenon dedicated to goddess of victory, Athena, with its honey-color marble columns rising from a massive limestone base is an awe- inspiring backdrop to have as the view for our breakfast every day.
    Acropolis

    Acropolis

    Walking with Dy Mayor of Athens

    Walking with Dy Mayor of Athens

  2. Experiential learning: Starting with a walking tour with the Deputy Mayor  A. Kafetzoppulous to a guided bus tour of the city on day one, we capped off the weekend with visit to the temple of Poseidon in south-east tip of Attica at the coastal town of Sounion on day 6 with immense opportunities to experience the Greek culture through experiential activities like iQuest Odyssey on day 7 and indulgences in  gastronomy in between all week long.
    Exciting Food options

    Exciting Food options

    SCC Athens Team at Sounion

    SCC Athens Team at Sounion

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  3. Combining History with our daily work: Our team’s first weekend in Athens coincided with the annual commemoration of historic run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C., bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians. Our gracious hosts from IBM Greece ensured we not only had a chance to view the Athens marathon finish in the Olympic Stadium but also adjusted our team activity schedule on Sunday to allow one of our team member Scott Neuman to run a 10K race in the Athens Marathon today. And Scott finished with his personal best record of under 48 minutes. Bravo!

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Meeting with Mayor at the SCC Athens Kick off

Meeting with Mayor at the SCC Athens Kick off

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Olympic Stadium - Marathon

Olympic Stadium – Marathon

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Onto Week 2

While my colleague Dean Philips wrote recently about “Checking in”, he forgot to mention how much interest our first week of work full of intense meetings and interviews post kickoff with city officials has generated both within the city, in traditional as well as in  social media.(examples  here & here) We have already had 20+ meetings covering nearly 75+ individuals in week one of our discovery phase and are about to begin our follow up meetings and analysis phase in week two.

Stay tuned for more. Meanwhile enjoy the pictures from team Athens so far and do not forget to share, like and comment below to show your interest.

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In Taichung city, the progress never sleeps !

Ever since the IBM *Team Taichung arrived here, we have been overwhelmed by goodness, warmth and hospitality! The IBM Taipei team was well prepared to meet with us and prep us for our kickoff meeting with the Taichung city leaders.

And before we met with the leaders we had adequate opportunities to experience the local transportation services. And it is beyond impressive! The citizens have “multi-modal” (bikes, buses, metro, inter-city high speed trains etc.) transportation services available to them! They have conveniently located bike racks from their homes to pick up ergonomically designed, sturdy, yet fun and inspiring looking bikes to get to their nearest transportation network of buses and trains. They unlock and pay for these bikes with an ‘iPass’ card. By the way the first 10 mile usage is free. Then they have a quite well established network of commuting options of public transportation. They have Apps that show minute by minute status on the availability of these services. They use common payment cards for all public transportation.

By the way, parking for private vehicles such as scooters and cars is free, except in high density, congested areas where a nominal fee is charged. Really? Is this utopia?

In Taichung, everywhere we turned we saw “citizen centric” services, meaning the services are designed and delivered for the benefit of citizens. And then there is continued commitment to improve those services – faster routes to destinations, faster arrival times, better connections, less wait times, parking availability indicators, electronic payment systems, nominal fee, green buses, decreasing CO2 emissions and the list goes on.

Taichung city is indeed a ‘role model’ city that other cities within Taiwan and abroad can and should emulate!

And yet, the Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung and his team of leaders are focused on further improving these services, particularly the transportation services. Mayor Lin is really his people’s mayor ! He is laser focused on continuously improving. It seems, for Mayor Lin the progress never stops nor sleeps!

*Team Taichung – Rebecca Butler – @rebeccajbutler , Armando Calderon – @oacalderon1, David Kinsey – @dkinsey28, Dimitry Kharitonenko – @DKharitonenko and Suj Perepa – @sperepa

Mayor Lin

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Cloudy with a chance of ….. Waffles!

We are now into the final week of our SCC assignment in Brussels and the team is madly typing away on our keyboards completing the presentation and final report. While our team has been heads down and focused on getting ready for our final presentation, I want to share with you some of the extracurricular highlights of our trip so far!
For those that are not familiar with the typical Belgium weather, it usually ranges from partly cloudy, to full on cloudy, to cloudy with a chance of showers – and the last 2 weeks were no exception! However, we were blessed this weekend with a beautiful day of sunshine on Sunday, and we took the opportunity to visit a local market in the municipality of Anderlecht and test out the local bike sharing program – Villo!

Team on Villo bikes!

Team on Villo bikes!

Anderlecht Market

Anderlecht Market

Belgians have a love of good food and fresh ingredients. Our team has shared many great meals together, trying many different cuisines highlighting the international nature of the community. Here is a sample of some of the more interesting meals we have had!

Indian Cuisine

Indian Cuisine

Mindful Eating!

Mindful Eating!

Halal Lunch!

Halal Lunch!

Belgium is of course famous for….. Waffles! Did you know that this signature snack was meant as an afternoon treat and not for breakfast? We saw many tourists loading them up with toppings such as whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate. But as my fellow SCC colleagues, Paul Slayton and Mark Goldstein, can attest to… the best way to enjoy your Liege style waffle is…. Plain!!! That way you can experience the crunch of those tasty bits of sugar folded into the batter that create a gooey caramelized crust! YUMMM!!!

Liege Waffles

Liege Waffles

Other Belgian specialties …. beer & chocolate of course!

Belgian Beer

Belgian Beer

Belgian Chocolate

Belgian Chocolate

Until next time…tot ziens and à bientôt!

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Baton Rouge in the news on BBC this morning…..

We have heard while in Baton Rouge about the St George breakaway, and that is what was on news when I switched on television this morning (yeah, I do watch bbc – I do tune in to get some news)

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29666348

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Now we are cooking Part II

While you already heard about our cooking adventure, I wanted to share a few more photos of our team activity.    The cooking class was a great way to bond with the rest of the team.   We discovered new skills, ate a great Cajun lunch, while being a bit competitive about the cooking part.   I definitely recommend you consider a cooking class when you are in a new city as you learn a lot about the cuisine and local customs.    This was one of the first Louisiana cuisine meals that we have eaten during our stay in Baton Rouge and the chef explained about the type of cuisine and we even made one of his grandmother’s recipes.   Looking forward to a few more great meals before we head home.   #BatonRouge  #SCC

Culinary Institute

Culinary Institute

The first time baking

The first time baking

Wondering how the cupcakes will turn out

Wondering how the cupcakes will turn out

Watching the competition

Watching the competition

Nice baking

Nice baking

The team before they enjoy their meal

The team before they enjoy their meal

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Early morning moon viewing

Over the course of the first 2 weeks in Baton Rouge, some of our days were packed with meetings and conference calls, some of them quite early in the morning,   Often times it was still dark out when we woke up.  A benefit of that is that it allows me to observe the total lunar eclipse on the morning of Oct. 8.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice, but it is quite a sight to see.  Does a full moon affect how people drive?  The evidence seems to say no, although sometimes it seems like it does.

lunar_eclipse

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Khon Kaen Night Market

The team enjoyed a pleasant evening Saturday night strolling the streets of the local night market, shopping for souvenirs, tasting some of Khon Kaen’s best cuisines, and watching the local entertainers.

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