Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Today marks the launch of a new IBM Research facility in Nairobi, Kenya. In Kenya alone, IBM has deployed seven Corporate/Executive Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge teams to help improve critical infrastructure, spur economic growth, and strengthen the country’s ability to develop and retain top talent in technology.

In the article below, Smarter Cities Challenge alumnus Curtis Clark writes about how his team interviewed more than 80 Kenyan stakeholders en route to developing solutions to Nairobi’s traffic congestion and economic development issues.

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Already an East African economic force, Nairobi, Kenya is on a mission. The city of more than three million residents aspires to become one of the world’s leading urban areas, but to do that, it’ll have to get a handle on critical operational issues – including transportation. Nairobi has some of the world’s worst traffic congestion – a problem that costs Kenya’s capital approximately $500,000 per day in lost productivity and excess fuel consumption.

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I was part of a select group of six IBM global executives deployed to Nairobi for a three-week Smarter Cities Challenge assignment. Our task was to evaluate the city’s severe transportation challenges. We interviewed more than 80 Kenyan stakeholders and reviewed in excess of 40 reports, studies and planning documents. We then analyzed the data and developed a comprehensive solution roadmap to improve transportation throughout the region, assure sound investments in the transportation infrastructure, and accelerate the execution of existing plans.

Nairobi’s traffic congestion problems are staggering. Seventy-five percent of the city’s 1.5 million commuters drive alone over a road network that dates from when Nairobi was one-tenth its present size. In addition to costing half a million dollars per day in lost productivity, Nairobi’s traffic congestion is clearly producing greenhouse gases. This combination is unsustainable for a city with global aspirations.

Based on insights from Kenyan leaders and inspired by IBM’s successes with similar transportation issues in cities such as London, Rio de Janeiro, and Stockholm, we focused our recommendations on establishing a Smarter Transportation Authority, creating a centralized operations center, equipping police with mobile devices for reporting accidents, and utilizing analytics to integrate traffic data from multiple sources – including citizen reports.

In many ways, the development plans for Kenya (Kenya Vision 2030) and the Nairobi region reminded me of similarly audacious plans for my home state of North Carolina, where the late 1950s development of Research Triangle Park stemmed the “brain drain” from the state’s top universities, attracted 100 global corporations, and fueled more than 40,000 high technology careers. Similarly, we hope that our recommendations for will help lay the foundation for the effective movement of people, businesses and investments both within the city and to outlying developments such as the planned new urban developments Tatu City and Konza Technology City. Our work in Nairobi shows that improving traffic is only a means to an end. Economic development and better lives for citizens are the ultimate goals.

I feel privileged to have experienced the vibrancy and optimism of Nairobi and Kenya. Although my team and I have returned to our “day jobs,” we remain engaged with IBM Africa to build on our Kenyan relationships and continue the work we started. I hope to see Nairobi’s new transportation infrastructure in action one day. In the meantime, I’ve taken away the awesome experience of supporting a country’s vision for a brighter future, and helping to build a smarter planet firsthand.

Curtis Clark is Director of Global Government with IBM Sales & Distribution, Public Sector.

Related Articles and Resources:

New IBM Research Lab to Open in Kenya

IBM Research: Africa

How Sharing Resources Could Boost Africa’s Economic Development

IBM’s Commitment to Africa

Infographic: Africa: The Next Frontier for IBM Research Innovation

Smarter Cities Challenge: Why I Was Fascinated by the Smarter Cities Challenge Team

Smarter Cities Challenge: Team von IBM hilft Dortmund auf dem Weg zur smarten City

Smarter Cities Challenge: Visualization and Open Data in Helsinki

Wrestling with the Yin and Yang of A Smarter Planet

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9 Trackbacks
 
August 22, 2012
8:01 AM

[...] Laying the Foundation for Nairobi’s — and Kenya’s — Economic Growth [...]


Posted by: Building a Smarter Malaga | Citizen IBM Blog
 
August 22, 2012
3:55 PM

[...] to help them come up with a plan for modernizing the transportation system. They’re participating in IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge as members of the Executive Service Corps, a free, volunteer effort modeled on the US Peace Corps [...]


Posted by: Wrestling with the Yin and Yang of A Smarter Planet « A Smarter Planet Blog
 
August 23, 2012
5:22 PM

[...] a post on the Citizen IBM blog about the Smarter Cities Challenge project in [...]


Posted by: How Sharing Resources Could Boost Africa’s Economic Development « Voices
 
August 23, 2012
5:24 PM

[...] to help them come up with a plan for modernizing the transportation system. They’re participating in IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge as members of the Executive Service Corps, a free, volunteer effort modeled on the US Peace Corps [...]


Posted by: Wrestling with the Yin and Yang of A Smarter Planet « Voices
 
October 4, 2012
1:34 PM

[...] Blog: Laying the foundation for Nairobi’s and Kenya’s economic growth [...]


Posted by: IBM’s New Research Lab – Nairobi, Kenya | IBM Official Alumni Group: The Greater IBM Connection
 
November 14, 2012
8:03 AM

[...] Laying the Foundation for Nairobi’s – and Kenya’s – Economic Growth [...]


Posted by: Using Data to Tackle Urban Challenges | Citizen IBM Blog
 
November 15, 2012
3:31 PM

[...] the world stage. Boston’s traffic congestion problems are similar to Nairobi’s, but by measuring and analyzing traffic data, it is possible to develop solutions in either city – both to ease traffic congestion and [...]


Posted by: Sharing Insights Into Smarter Cities | Egypt
 
December 10, 2013
11:41 AM

[...] Laying the Foundation for Nairobi’s – and Kenya’s – Economic Growth [...]


Posted by: Helping Ethiopia Achieve Its Economic Goals | Citizen IBM Blog
 
April 22, 2014
11:40 AM

[...] megacities, or cities that consist of more than 10 million people. Many megacities, such as Nairobi, Kenya, are working with IBM to leverage their data with analytics to improve the quality of life of its [...]


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