In 2010, IBM Citizenship launched the Smarter Cities Challenge, a philanthropic initiative that provides city leaders with teams of IBM’s most talented experts to help cities address their most pressing challenges. Through these grants, teams of IBMers have been working side by side with city leaders to investigate and tackle problems like workforce readiness, economic development strategies and sustainability.
The IBM teams meet with dozens of stakeholders in government, business, not-for-profits and other organizations to examine the city as a “system of systems” and gather diverse perspectives about root causes and potential solutions to the challenge at hand. At the end of the engagement, the IBM team delivers strategic recommendations in a presentation and written roadmap that draws upon the technical experience and strategic insight of the IBM team, city staff and community members.
Over the past few years, we have seen some themes emerge across projects. It’s clear that many cities need to collaborate more closely, break down silos, and establish clear governance of procedures. There is also enormous potential for better collection, analysis and use of data to inform decision-making and strive for better outcomes across the board. Whether deployed to address property vacancy in Syracuse or traffic congestion in Nairobi – data is the key to building Smarter Cities.
Each year, we select our grant locations through a competitive process, and over 300 cities around the world have applied to participate, with 64 cities selected to receive grants by the end of 2012. We are now accepting applications for 2013 Smarter Cities Challenge grants, and have found that there are a few key ingredients for a successful application:
- A clearly stated problem or opportunity that, if addressed, would tangibly impact the lives of citizens.
- Strong city leadership and staff, indicated in the Mayor’s letter of support for the proposal.
- Commitment to collaboration and access, particularly with regard to open data.
We anticipate another terrific class of Smarter Cities Challenge recipients and I encourage you visit the Smarter Cities Challenge website to download the application, and follow the impact of the program on cities around the world.
Jen Crozier is Vice President, IBM Citizenship Initiatives.