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Mar 30, 2012

The Smart(er) Money’s on These Cities

By Mike Westholder

IBM chose 33 municipalities worldwide last month to receive 2012 IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants. This is the second of the three-year, $50 million program, making it IBM’s largest philanthropic effort. The initiative funds teams of IBM experts, who study and make recommendations regarding specific urban issues.

Grants were awarded to cities in Ghana, India, the U.K., Korea, Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, Singapore, the U.S., Spain, Colombia, Taiwan, China, Kenya, Canada, Morocco, Argentina, Italy, South Africa and Mexico.

The 2012 winning cities proposed projects that include initiatives to: attract a variety of jobs and industries; integrate bus, rail, bicycle, car and pedestrian modes of transportation; help lower pollution levels by accurately measuring vehicle miles traveled; reduce asthma outbreaks by analyzing inhaler and air-quality data; apply data analytics to identify the most effective investments to improve an entire school system; and revitalize and redevelop older neighborhoods.  

By way of example, Edmonton, Canada—a 2011 recipient of a $400,000 grant—worked with an IBM team to improve traffic safety by analyzing transportation data. The resulting recommendations included:

  • Improving openness in government agencies and data
  • Creating an Analytics Center of Excellence to support road safety
  • Simplifying internal traffic-safety measurements
  • Using social media to reach out to citizens
  • Collaborating with industry leaders and academia on a traffic safety research project

While the communities—and projects—are diverse, they all showed a willingness to exchange ideas and data freely so cities could make more informed and collaborative decisions. To that end, IBM will provide special assistance to the winning cities on the use of City Forward, a free site IBM created with public policy experts. Citizens, elected officials and urban planners can use the site to visually explore data related to various urban issues.

For more on the Smarter Cities Challenge, check out this Q&A with Jennifer Crozier, director of corporate citizenship at IBM.


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