|by Tom Erickson and Susan Spraragen|
In the fall of 2011, a team of six IBM experts spent three weeks in Helsinki as part of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge program. The program brings together an interdisciplinary team to focus on a challenge faced by a city. In the case of Helsinki, the City wanted to make the most of two opportunities. One was that Helsinki had just begun to implement an open data strategy to make city data available to its citizens. The second was Helsinki’s selection as the 2012 World Design Capital, a biennial event that promotes cities that are using design to improve their social, cultural and economic life. Helsinki saw the potential for synergy between these two opportunities, and thought that IBM’s expertise in managing and visualizing data might help make its data more accessible to citizens, and provide interesting examples for the World Design Capital events.
The project began with a non-stop series of meetings with stakeholders: politicians, city employees, private companies and ordinary citizens. Our aim was to understand the issues that concerned citizens, and develop relationships with stakeholders who could help us. We spent the first week assembling a picture of Helsinki’s open data strategy and getting a sense of its diverse and vibrant design culture. As we moved into our second week, we began working with local stakeholders.
We had set ourselves two tasks. The first was to develop concrete examples of ways in which visualization could make city data more accessible to Helsinki’s citizens. One point we emphasized was that visualization is not just about producing cool pictures. A good visualization is a catalyst that can encourage thinking, discussion, contribution and interaction, and this means that it needs to be part of a larger system that supports this activity. We spent a day at Aalto University’s Design Factory, where we asked thirty locals – students, faculty, technologists and ordinary citizens – to develop ideas for systems that created or used open data. We drew on these ideas, along with those developed in other meetings, to develop a portfolio of design examples that ranged from visualizing the workings of the bureaucracy, to systems for participatory planning, to public displays of the city mood.
Our second task was to develop a roadmap for Helsinki’s open data strategy. Here we had a firm foundation to start from, as Helsinki was already off to a strong start. We laid out different engagement and business models for the open data strategy, and discussed ways to support the evolution of an open data ecosystem. We also discussed ways in which the move to open data would transform the city government by creating new roles, fostering standards and encouraging transparency.
We hope it is evident that throughout the Challenge, our work was carried out in collaboration with an enormously vibrant and talented array of people from Helsinki. While a global team can bring expertise from the outside, ultimately technology is applied in the context of the local culture, and that means that there is no substitute for collaboration.
Tom Erickson is an interaction designer and researcher in IBM Research. His focus is on improving communication and collaboration among large numbers of people.
Susan Spraragen is a service design researcher in IBM Research. Susan focuses on enabling the investigation of the relationships between service providers and service consumers.
“We don’t have a jobs problem in this country; we have a skills problem.” This was how Stan Litow, quoting Thomas Friedman, began his presentation to the participants at CRO’s CommitForum! last September.
As President of the IBM International Foundation and a former Deputy Chancellor of the New York City schools, Stan has been following the startling education statistics in this country – an overall high school drop-out rate of 25%, with only 30% of high school graduates ever completing a bachelor’s degree. The global economy is increasingly knowledge-based, with an associated increase in the need for workers with post-secondary educations. Because of this, IBM and more than half of U.S. employers report that they cannot find qualified workers.
The Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), is one of the innovative partnerships IBM has launched to address this critical skills gap. The first P-TECH school opened in Brooklyn in September 2011, the New York City Mayor is planning for three more schools in New York, and the Chicago Mayor hopes to open five similar schools this year. Students who complete P-TECH’s six-year program will receive both a high school diploma and an associates degree in technology. The program also provides each student with an IBM mentor to help not only with academics, but with planning for employment or further education.
The first P-TECH is an alliance among IBM, the New York City Department of Education, The City University of New York, and the New York City College of Technology. Together, they have created a tough curriculum that requires longer days and a longer school year, with a strong focus on ensuring that graduates are employment-ready when they receive their degrees.
So why do we at CDC Development Solutions find P-TECH of interest? It’s quite simple – while it is a long-term investment, this partnership model has the potential to change the face of American education and drive economic growth. Likewise, it has great potential to be replicated in other countries where we work and where the similar skills gaps exist.
Young people need to be able to connect what they’re learning in school to where they’ll be performing in the workplace. Tying education to clear pathways to employment is a clear win for both IBM and the P-TECH students. CDC Development Solutions will be following
P-TECH’s results in the coming months and years with great expectations.
Deirdre White is CEO of CDC Development Solutions. This article originally appeared on CDC’s “An ‘I’ For Development” blog.
Three years ago IBM began to evangelise a new vision: a Smarter Planet. We argued that information technology was reaching a new tipping point which would effect all of our lives. Technology was increasingly affordable and therefore ubiquitous — just consider the number of devices that have a computer chip inside them.
Furthermore these devices were increasingly able to interconnect, and therefore able to pass data back to existing IT systems.
However, IBM’s vision went beyond what others now refer to as the ‘Internet of Things’. We could see that we would have the capability to analyse the vast amounts of data generated and build reliable computer models to help us make more informed decisions, operate more efficiently or even predict the future.
At the same time there was a recognition that the world’s resources were increasingly constrained — a population that now tops seven billion is leading to potential food, water and energy security challenges. Collectively, we need to conserve or use those resources more efficiently.
So, we found ourselves with the opportunity to use new technological capabilities to make things work better — whether natural or man-made systems. It was not a difficult decision to choose to focus on the structures in which we could have the greatest impact on the most people — cities. Since that decision IBM has been involved in more than 2,000 Smarter City projects across the world.
We’ve moved well beyond the stage when our automatic response to a request for help, was to write a cheque. Instead we’re focused on using our professional knowledge and capabilities to help make a sustainable difference to our communities which we believe is effectively an investment in the long-term sustainability of our own business.
We all need access to good education, good housing, good healthcare, transport etc. These are the essential conditions for all our success — and they are all examples of services provided at a local city level. So, establishing the ‘Smarter Cities Challenge’ was an obvious development in our mission to deliver corporate social value.
The Smarter Cities Challenge is strategic philanthropy on a large-city scale. Through the three-year $50 million programme we have invited cities around the world to bid for the services of small teams of consultants, to work alongside city leaders on their most critical issues, in order to offer new perspectives on how to address the challenges their cities are facing.
After an initial pilot of the concept in the US, IBM launched the programme globally in 2010, not knowing quite what the response was going to be. As the first annual round of the challenge closed we discovered that we had over 200 bids from cities in mature markets. In the first year we selected 25 cities. Glasgow was the first city selected outside of the US and is one of only four from Europe, the others being Nice, Eindhoven, and Helsinki.
Glasgow City Council asked for assistance in reviewing its approach to tackling fuel poverty — something that impacts an estimated 35% of its citizens — and that was before the recent round of energy price rises.
This summer a team of five consultants flew in from around the world to live and work in Glasgow for an intensive three week period. They were supported by a local UK team, in which I’m proud to include myself.
We worked hard to understand the issues — from the perspectives of a range of stake-holders. We met with over one hundred individuals. We brainstormed ideas and in the final week publicly presented our findings to more than 80 people representing interested parties, including the leader of the council.
We also delivered a report containing 60 recommendations and ideas of how the council and its partners might further develop their work in this area.
Glasgow City Council have since announced a number of initiatives to address fuel poverty — or ‘affordable warmth’ as it is now known – and the establishment of a new strategic forum comprised of organisations to address the issue, using our recommendations as the basis for the group’s work.
The second annual round of the Smarter Cities Challenge has recently closed. As I write, we are facing the daunting but exciting task of sifting through the applications and deciding which of the many bids to select.
Once again we’ll do this based on where we can make the greatest contribution and where the outcomes have the greatest potential to make things work better — endeavouring to make progress step by step, system by system, city by city.
Mark Wakefield is IBM Corporate Citizenship Manager for the UK. This article originally appeared on LocalGov.co.uk
In 2011, the City of Philadelphia bested 200 other applicants for an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant – becoming one of only two dozen cities worldwide to earn the distinction. The Smarter Cities Challenge is IBM’s largest philanthropic initiative – a three-year, 100-city, $50 million grant program through which IBM’s top consultants immerse themselves in the studies of specific urban challenges and provide strategic advice to civic and community leaders.
During October 2011, a team of eight IBM experts lived and worked in Philadelphia to deliver recommendations on a key challenge identified by Mayor Michael A. Nutter and his senior leadership team: to develop new strategies to blend, deploy and sustain Digital On-Ramps – a system that will provide the city’s traditional in-person and digital virtual education, digital literacy, and workforce training programs. The goal is to further develop the Digital On-Ramp (DOR) initiative of learning and services to help Philadelphia create a first-of-its-kind integrated system to identify and develop human capital.
IBM team members Ed Blatt, John Evans, Lisa Farnin, Sugandh Mehta, Diane Melley, Mary Olson, Bertrand Portier, and Martha Vernon shared their thoughts on Philadelphia’s initiative to become a Smarter City.
Based on your conversations with Mayor Nutter, what are some of Philadelphia’s most pressing problems and the outlook for managing them?
Mary: “While the City of Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States Constitution, it has a growing population that is unable to read that document. Put simply, these citizens lack the skills to participate in today’s global economy. And even though many public and private organizations work tirelessly to improve skills and enable economic participation, they will never achieve the scale needed to truly solve the problem unless they work together.”
Martha: “In addition, the vision is to create a learning delivery system that is flexible enough to allow anytime, anywhere learning. Such a system would allow for personalized information and customized learning interventions based on each citizen’s needs.”
Sugandh Mehta, Martha Vernon, Bertrand Portier, Diane Melley,
John Evans, Ed Blatt, and Mary Olson
How did the team identify and coordinate existing city resources, and which new resources needed to be developed?
Mary: “The good news is that the resources, institutions, and programs to address Philadelphia’s skills gap already exist. The Smarter Cities Challenge is all about effectively coordinating these efforts to the benefit of all citizens. We feel that providing a collaborative learning environment with a comprehensive profile of the individual will make all participants successful in the long run.”
Ed: “Providing a collaborative learning environment is going to be key. While Philadelphia will almost certainly want to develop new resources and materials, the big challenge in the short term will be organizing and coordinating the resources that already exist. In addition, the city will face significant challenges in convincing some stakeholders to share their resources. Most of the existing programs have traditionally operated in silos because in many ways they have been competitors for city, state and foundation funding. So getting them to start working together and sharing is going to be tough.
Philadelphia will also need to be careful to avoid simply placing existing materials online. What works in a classroom or in a book will not necessarily translate to on-line learning. City leaders will need to think of new ways to approach old problems.”
In your view, what will be the key component of Philadelphia’s ability to effect positive change?
Ed: “This project is all about public-private partnerships. But it’s not just government, nonprofit, and community-based providers that need to participate. Private-sector employers also need to join in the Digital On-Ramp (DOR) project. These employers can play a vitally important role in planning, the development of curriculum and training materials, and teaching. Private-sector employers need to increase their roles and be involved in every aspect of DOR.”
John: “It’ll be important to reach state and federal organizations in addition to groups from across all segments of the city. For example, Philadelphia could foster amazing synergies to increase the effectiveness of services delivery by coordinating proposal efforts among the Free Library, state workforce programs, the school system, and corporate philanthropic programs.”
Martha: “The city will need to remain mindful that the DOR must serve the wide-ranging needs of a diverse population. The system must be flexible enough and customizable enough to deliver value to people who learn in different ways and at different times. The pathways to learning can be varied, but they all must point to the common goal of serving the citizens of Philadelphia.”
Mary: “Philadelphia’s myriad nonprofit organizations, government workforce development programs, educational institutions, and charitable organizations need to work together to build synergy and achieve more than each can on its own. No single entity can overcome challenges of this scale by working in isolation.”
Philadelphia already has begun implementing some of IBM’s recommendations, including qualifying literacy providers for the online course catalogue. And the MacArthur Foundation has awarded the city a first-round grant to design a certification, credentialing and badging system that will be recognized by private sector employers seeking qualified job candidates from the program.
Philadelphian Edward Blatt, Ph.D., is Senior Managing Consultant with the IBM Government Center of Competence. John Evans is a Business Consulting and Enablement Manager with IBM Research. Philadelphian Lisa Farnin is an IBM Corporate Citizenship Manager. IBM Distinguished Engineer and IBM Academy Member Sugandh Mehta is an expert on cloud computing. Philadelphian Diane Melley is IBM Director of Global Community Initiatives. IBM Education Solution Specialist Mary Olson helps universities and K-12 clients transform education delivery. Bertrand Portier is a Business Process Management Software Solution Architect. Martha Vernon is the North America Enablement Leader for the East Software Sales team.
Centennial Grants support projects that apply IBM’s smarter planet strategies to community service, and can become a model for similar volunteer engagements elsewhere. IBM has awarded 11 Centennial Grants of up to $100,000 each, totaling nearly $1 million worldwide. The grants fund innovative projects developed by IBM volunteers in areas such as healthcare, energy conservation and food safety.
On a blustery December morning in Randolph Center, Vermont, the faculty, staff, and students of Vermont Technical College found themselves in a clamorous game of Jeopardy! with only one category of questions: Energy. Janette Bombardier – the Senior Location Executive for IBM’s Essex, Vermont facility – had whipped the audience into a frenzy of enthusiasm (both in-person and via live video feed to six other Vermont Tech locations) as answers were yelled out and prizes were distributed. Working with IBM on a project funded by an IBM Centennial Grant, Vermont Tech had just committed to reducing its 2012 electrical consumption by 5 percent – an amount roughly equal to 250,000 kilowatts and $25,000 in costs.
Vermont Tech’s Center for Sustainable Practices is championing the project, which is a collaboration between IBM and the Vermont State College system. The “Managing Energy – Sustaining Our Community” Centennial Grant will provide funding to Vermont Tech to implement the most promising energy-saving ideas identified through a campus-wide initiative, and for monitoring campus energy use to help meet the 5 percent reduction goal.
On that December day, the college announced a faculty mini-grant program to encourage curriculum alterations focused on data analytics and energy reduction. Vermont Tech also announced the state college system’s first Green Revolving Fund. With seed money from the IBM Centennial Grant, the fund will support energy-efficiency projects developed by students, with cost savings recycled into the fund to perpetuate its legacy.
At the end of the day, participants were urged to spread the word and to submit their energy use reduction suggestions to a special email account. The first 100 people to submit ideas will receive prizes provided by IBM and Efficiency Vermont – a nonprofit operated by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. Those ideas will be evaluated based on projected return on investment, and then implemented to help Vermont Tech meet its 5% energy reduction challenge.
Stay tuned for a report on our progress!
Donna Barlow Casey is Director of the Academic Center for Sustainable Practices (CSP) at Vermont Technical College. As the first full-time CSP director at the state’s only technical college, Ms. Casey is charged with applying green technologies and sustainable practices to educational, operational, student- and community-focused efforts to develop a vibrant, green economy in Vermont.
Read more about IBM Centennial Grants in Vermont: