Armonk, N.Y. — IBM is extending the Smarter Cities Challenge competitive grant program. The effort has already sent 700 of IBM's top experts to municipalities around the world, where they have completed pro bono consulting projects that have improved the way local governments deliver vital services to their citizens.
During the first four years of IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge, many of the 116 winning municipalities have been able to improve public safety, economic development, revenue, transparency, citizen engagement, health and well-being, transportation, social services, and utilities. Each Smarter Cities Challenge engagement is valued at $500,000.
After intense preparation, six-person IBM Smarter Cities Challenge teams spend three weeks in the winning region analyzing all available data about a critical issue of the municipality's choosing. Team members meet in person with dozens of members of the local government, citizen, business, and not-for-profit communities. In doing so, they gather diverse perspectives about the causes and potential solutions to the challenge at hand. At the conclusion, IBM presents comprehensive recommendations for improving the delivery of services to citizens. This is followed by a more detailed, written implementation plan. Included in the plan are examples of how other, top level Smarter Cities Challenge winners have successfully addressed similar issues.
Past grant recipients have implemented IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge recommendations and tangibly improved the lives of their citizens. For example:
- Glasgow, United Kingdom, is subsidizing heating fuel costs for low-income elderly citizens. The city also secured a $40-million grant from the Technology Strategy Board.
- Jacksonville, Fla., unveiled JaxScore, a public-facing dashboard that measures the city's performance and progress on economic development priorities, including building permits issued, jobs created and veterans served. Such engagement has been recognized by The Public Technology Institute.
- Johannesburg, South Africa, implemented a comprehensive technology solution to address public safety and emergency management.
- Nanjing, China, implemented a social media program that engaged more than two-million people for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
- Porto Alegre, Brazil, unveiled Digital PoA, an online platform that facilitates a digital dialogue among citizens, city officials, collectives and local organizations.
- Syracuse, N.Y., analyzes data to identify homes and neighborhoods that need revitalization. The effort has yielded a 69 percent increase in collection of delinquent property taxes and fees.
- Valparaiso, Chile, is receiving $100-million from the national government for the city's transportation initiatives.
- Suffolk County, N.Y., is piloting clean-wastewater technology and plans on better coordinating clean-water initiatives among public, private and not-for-profit stakeholders.
- Houston launched eGovernment Center, which includes a comprehensive and convenient social service portal for citizens needing help on multiple issues such as education, public safety and disabilities.
- Kyoto, Japan, launched an institute to coordinate investments in transportation. The institute's participants include members of academia and the private sector, including IBM Japan.
- Birmingham, Ala., is deploying mobile food markets to bring healthy, affordable food to areas where its availability has been limited.
"We're extending IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge for one, simple reason: It works," said Jennifer Crozier, IBM’s vice president of Global Citizenship Initiatives. "City leaders from around the world have told us how IBM's advice has helped them re-imagine how they can use data and analytics to help them solve complex problems. We're told that IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is that rare program that brings people together and gets long term results — and we're proud of that. We invite mayors and regional leaders to apply with their toughest problems and let's see what we can do together."
Smarter Cities Challenge is an elite program, having picked only 116 cities out of more than 500 applicants over the last four years. Strong applications propose projects designed to address high priority problems of critical importance to citizens. The city or region must be able to share detailed information to help the IBM team analyze the identified issue. Leaders must also guarantee face-to-face access to city, regional, civic and business stakeholders for interviews with IBM team members so that they may comprehensively assess a given problem and recommend solutions.
IBM dispatches its employees on these engagements who hail from all over the world, and who offer skills in the areas of marketing, communications, technology, research and development, government, human resources, finance, business, legal matters, and specific disciplines such as transportation, energy, and health.
Smarter Cities Challenge is open to local and regional, general purpose governing bodies, including cities, counties, prefectures, boroughs, and districts. Applications may be submitted to IBM through February 6, 2015, by visiting www.smartercitieschallenge.org.