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Building Smarter Cities: IBM Is Helping Urban Areas Solve Their Biggest Problems

Smarter Cities

Suppose you were the mayor of a city and could ask a team of IBM professionals to help develop ways to solve the most pressing issues facing your urban area using the best insights from IBM’s technology and services business. And suppose this service, valued at half a million dollars, was available to your city for free. Would you take advantage?

That describes the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge* initiative, a global philanthropic outreach that sends teams of IBMers to help city leaders solve critical problems such as improving emergency services, reducing neighborhood blight and lowering crime rates, says Jennifer Crozier, vice president, IBM Global Citizenship Initiatives.

IBM teams have helped 116 cities on all 6 inhabited continents and provided more than $70 million worth of investment

Because cities are large, complex organizations, their leaders must quickly receive and review data from different industries, manage scarce resources and deliver quality services to residents, Crozier says. “We know that IBM is great at big system computing, so we’re uniquely able to help.”

Since the program began, nearly 600 cities worldwide have competed for grants. As a result, IBM teams have helped 116 cities on all six inhabited continents and provided more than $70 million worth of investment, Crozier says.

This year, 16 cities were selected as 2015 IBM Smarter Cities Challenge winners (see “IBM 2015 Smarter Cities Challenge Winners,”).

Taking Up Residence

As part of the Smarter Cities Challenge program, IBM sends six experts to live under one roof for three weeks in the host city. “Some of the company’s most talented IBMers, usually executives, are selected on a competitive basis to be a part of these teams,” Crozier says.

The first week is spent getting immersed in the project topic, as well as in local life. The IBMers meet with stakeholders, including residents, city leaders and representatives from local nonprofits, to discuss issues and opportunities. “Team members may interview anywhere from 40 to 120 stakeholders that week,” Crozier remarks. During that time, they might also visit local parks, attend events or even catch a school sporting event.

Margarette Burnette is a freelance writer and former IBMer based in Atlanta.


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