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Smarter Cities Challenge

It’s been years since we learned that the world is “flat” and that all enterprises – whether commercial, governmental or non-profit – are globally connected. But what we’re still learning in this era of global integration is how to prepare the next generation of leaders to realize what we characterize as the triple benefit – developing their skills while solving communities’ problems and opening new markets. This isn’t just a “business” problem.
It’s an issue that impacts – and will shape the future of – almost every human endeavor
on the planet.

From right: PYXERA Global CEO Deirdre White, IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Vice President Stanley S. Litow, and moderator Nina Easton discuss "Shared Value -- Forging a Pathway of Partnership" at the PYXERA Global 5th Anniversary ICV Conference.

From right: PYXERA Global CEO Deirdre White, IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Vice President Stanley S. Litow, and moderator Nina Easton discuss “Shared Value — Forging a Pathway of Partnership” at the PYXERA Global 5th Anniversary ICV Conference.

Running our cities, educating our children, protecting our health and sustaining our environment are just some of the world’s critical challenges that no single company or  economic sector can address or solve alone. Mastering the world’s challenges requires the world’s collective intelligence and expertise and true collaboration. That’s why legacy models of top-down corporate philanthropy have become obsolete. In their place have arisen innovative approaches to transforming the ways we interact, learn and lead. At IBM, these approaches involve maximizing the value of our most important assets – the time and talent of our employees – versus merely donating our excess cash.

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It’s no secret that in today’s economy city governments have to make the best of limited resources. The good news is that they have a powerful tool already at their disposal – one they’ve been gathering for years. That tool is data. As we congratulate the next group of cities and regions around the world to win IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants, we pause to reflect on our long-term partnerships to help cities become better places to live and work, and revisit earlier winners to share news of their progress toward this goal.

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With the help of a Smarter Cities Challenge grant that was delivered in late 2011, the City of Syracuse, New York has figured out how to use data to make smarter decisions around its vacant property problem. The city has been able to target nearly 2,000 vacant properties to reclaim. This effort is revitalizing neighborhoods and is expected to provide the city with millions of dollars in back taxes over the next eight years. I recently had a chance to speak with Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner to understand how IBM’s data expertise is helping her revitalize communities in her city.

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Jen Crozier: How did the Smarter Cities Challenge grant change the way you make decisions for the City of Syracuse?

Stephanie Miner: The Smarter Cities Challenge enabled us to use data and analytics to help make decisions so we could focus the city’s resources on areas where they would be most effective. In some cases, some of our data goes back to the founding of our city. What we needed – and what the Smarter Cities Challenge team helped us realize – was a way to transform data into meaningful and actionable information. Working with the Smarter Cities team, we were able harness data from various city departments and use it in models to develop strategies for infrastructure and other types of investments to stabilize and revitalize our neighborhoods.

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The practice of corporate citizenship can take varying forms at different organizations. At IBM, corporate citizenship is fully integrated into the company’s overall business strategy. This integration enables IBM – and IBMers – to affect meaningful and sustainable change for our citizenship clients. In the first of a series of articles on the practice of corporate citizenship, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Director for the Americas Doris González outlines the critical role of the corporate citizenship manager as influencer, partner and IBM brand ambassador to public and private sector entities working to build
a smarter planet.

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Though it first emerged in the 1960s, the field of corporate citizenship or corporate responsibility began to get mainstream acceptance in the 1990s as the “new big idea in the business world.” Over the years, corporate citizenship has continued to evolve and mature into a field with great career opportunities, representing the face – and heart – of
a company.

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At IBM, social responsibility has been built into the very fabric of the company since it was founded more than a century ago. As the practice of corporate citizenship has evolved, the role of the corporate citizenship manager also has progressed from overseeing the disbursement of cash grants to developing strategies to apply IBM’s best talent and technology to solving the world’s toughest societal issues in such areas as education, global health, literacy, economic development and environmental sustainability. Business and citizenship strategies must be aligned to be sustainable. As part of that strategic alignment, we focus our resources on specific efforts to help educators and school systems, nonprofit organizations and cities succeed. In the process, we develop leadership and collaboration skills among our employees, and open new markets to our business.

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The concepts of philanthropy and corporate giving have evolved over the years from localized donations by individuals of great wealth to “strategic” corporate giving to today’s progressive practice of creating sustainable value across the globe. IBM has pioneered numerous corporate social responsibility (CSR) innovations that emphasize the sharing of technologies and expertise to address challenges faced by cities, by developing regions,
by those seeking a way out of poverty through education and training, and by humanitarian researchers searching for everything from solutions to environmental issues to cures
for disease.

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In my recent conversation with the Chinese-language edition of the Harvard Business Review, I discussed the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge engagement in New Taipei City as
an example of how my company integrates corporate citizenship with business strategy to build relationships and new leaders while addressing societal problems around the world.
At IBM, we believe that innovation in corporate social responsibility holds the key to benefiting our enterprise and employees as we build a smarter planet.

Louise Davis is the IBM Growth Markets Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Executive for Asia Pacific.

Related Resources:

Harvard Business Review in Chinese Interview with Louise Davis (in Chinese)

Harvard Business Review in Chinese Interview with Louise Davis (in English)

Applying Technology and Expertise to Global Societal Problems

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(Versão em Português do Brasil abaixo)

The participation of the City of Porto Alegre, Brazil in the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge was definitely a milestone for us all in the municipal government. The work done by the IBM executives who participated in the program resulted in a real action plan for our teams, and prompted profound reflection among our managers and leaders. With help from the IBM team, we were not only able to map more precisely a number of initiatives that were already underway in the city, but also were able to discover and develop new approaches to our efforts. Our work with the Smarter Cities Challenge team helped us see more clearly the connection between how we manage Porto Alegre and important global trends.

Mayor Fortunati addresses the Smarter Cities Challenge team

Mayor Fortunati addresses the Smarter Cities Challenge team

Covering aspects such as citizen participation, urban mobility, social interaction and open data, the Smarter Cities Challenge team encouraged us to pursue a number of initiatives. We are in the process of enhancing opportunities for citizen engagement (for which Porto Alegre already is internationally recognized) through programs that are being developed and that we can hopefully announce soon.

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October 9th, 2013
8:00
 

Imagine a city in which cognitive systems – tools to gather and analyze massive amounts of data from such sources as embedded street sensors, traffic cameras power grid usage indicators – will augment human capabilities to aid decision making. In this type of Smarter City, municipal authorities will be able to improve traffic flow, entrepreneurs will be better able to understand and mitigate risk, and ordinary citizens will be able to interact with (and benefit from) their cities as never before.

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Imagine also that cognitive technologies like those in the IBM Watson system that won on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! will enable new levels of sophistication and effective service from civic organizations, nonprofits and skilled volunteers – not to mention disaster preparation and recovery. These are just some of the promises of cognitive cities.

It may sound like science fiction, but the movement already has begun. Read my recent Forbes article “New Tech Will Change the Way Cities and Businesses Solve Problems” for a deeper explanation of how cognitive systems will transform life in the world’s smarter cities. Then check out the references below to see what mayors and other city leaders are saying about how IBM technology and expertise is making their cities smarter…today.

Katharine Frase, Ph.D., is Chief Technology Officer of IBM Smarter Cities.

Related Resources:

Learn more about cognitive systems. Download a free chapter from Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing (forthcoming)

Find out more about the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge

Read what mayors are saying about the Smarter Cities Challenge program

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Today marks the beginning of the next phase of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge competitive grants program, which deploys teams of our top talent to perform pro bono problem solving for cities and municipal regions worldwide. We’re building on the success of the program’s first three years, during which 600 IBM experts on six-person teams provided strategic and practical advice to 100 cities. In all, IBMers provided more than 100,000 hours of business and technical expertise through this game-changing program that began in the company’s 100th year.

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Valued at USD $400,000 each, the three-week Smarter Cities Challenge engagements have helped cities address key challenges in the areas of economic development; water, energy and environment; health and social services; transportation; and public safety. During the course of forming partnerships with influencers and constituencies from government, citizen groups, businesses and nonprofits, we have gathered diverse perspectives on the causes and potential solutions to a variety of urban challenges. While each city is unique, our work has enabled us to identify common characteristics and themes that have improved the subsequent effectiveness of our teams.

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September 19th, 2013
8:00
 

I’d heard the term “giving back” many times over the course of my career, but never really understood what it meant until after I joined IBM as part of the Cognos acquisition. After learning of IBM’s legendary culture of service and the extent to which IBMers contribute to their communities, I had the opportunity to take part in an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge engagement in August 2012. This was an eye-opening experience for me, both as an IBMer and as a human being.

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I spent one month in Houston, USA working with city administrators to help identify ways to more effectively deliver services to residents. It was astounding to me that IBM would donate the time and talent of six experts for a month – effectively removing us from our “day jobs” to focus on this philanthropic activity. While in Houston, I got to see the impact an IBM team could have when we joined together and put our minds to a problem. But that was only the beginning.

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Some segments of the media have lately focused their coverage on programs that benefit economic development, scientific research, and education. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen articles that have examined issues and initiatives such as the following:

IBM World Community Grid
Two projects hosted on IBM’s World Community Grid are making progress in helping to identify clean energy and an AIDS cure. Voice of America discusses how The Harvard Clean Energy Project used World Community Grid to create a public, searchable database of novel, organic compounds that rates their potential as inexpensive and efficient solar cells. And CNN.com takes a look at how Android-based mobile devices can help FightAIDS@Home.

Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH)
The City of New York is using IBM’s blueprint to expand an education model that blazes a pathway from high school to college and career. Check out what The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and NY1 have to say.

IBM Corporate Service Corps
Forbes profiled IBM’s corporate citizenship programs – including the IBM Corporate Service Corps, a worldwide pro bono consulting and leadership development program – that are shared with other companies.

IBM Smarter Cities Challenge
We love it when cities adopt our recommendations generated from IBM Smarter Cities Challenge pro bono consulting engagements. For instance, in this op-ed from its editors, the Knoxville News Sentinel congratulates its hometown mayor for taking a new approach to educating and providing incentives to citizens and property owners for making their dwellings more energy efficient.

Ari Fishkind is a media relations liaison for IBM’s Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs. 

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Waterloo has one of the strongest economies in Canada because of low unemployment rates, the best post-secondary institutions in the country, stable housing and real estate markets and low consumer and business bankruptcies. We have been ranked among the top 20 startup hubs in the world because of the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars our startup companies generate for our economy.

Mayor Brenda Halloran (front, center) with the Waterloo, Ontario City Council

Mayor Brenda Halloran (front, center) with the Waterloo, Ontario City Council

And because of these and other achievements, we have been earmarked as a growth community by the Province of Ontario. People are drawn to this city for all it has to offer. Our ability to reinvent ourselves and to diversify our economy has made Waterloo a city of choice to live, work, learn and play. But we can’t rest on our laurels; we must always think about the future and how we can overcome challenges. And we do have challenges.

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