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IBM Awards Cities and Regions With Grants to Fund Collaborations With IBM Problem Solvers

Winning municipalities to work with top IBM experts funded by IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants

ARMONK, N.Y., March 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) will be helping at least 16 cities and counties around the world this year to address issues ranging from clean water, healthy food, and revenue generation, to job development, efficient transportation, and public safety.

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To that end, IBM today named recipients of its Smarter Cities Challenge for 2014, a competitive grant program that sends teams of some of IBM's most talented experts to select cities and regions worldwide to provide expertise on the most critical issues faced by communities today.

For these pro bono consultative engagements, IBM teams invest months studying a local issue chosen by a winning municipality.  They then spend three weeks on the ground in the region gathering and analyzing all relevant data and reports, while meeting in person with dozens of members of the government, citizen, business, and not-for-profit communities. In doing so, they gather diverse perspectives about the factors involved and potential solutions to the opportunity at hand. At the conclusion of these studies, IBM presents comprehensive recommendations for addressing the issue in line with recognized "best practices." This is followed weeks later by a more detailed, written plan for its implementation.  

Smarter Cities Challenge was originally conceived in 2011 as a three-year grant program, but highly positive feedback and significant results have encouraged IBM to extend the initiative. In its first three years, IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge deployed 600 experts on six-person teams that provided strategic and practical advice to 100 municipalities. These highly prized three-week engagements, each currently valued at USD $500,000, have helped local government address key challenges.

Given that effective local governance today relies on the coordination of multiple municipalities, IBM made regional governments eligible for the grant program this year, not just cities. With the previous participation of 100 cities, the Smarter Cities Challenge program now also offers winning municipalities access to fellow leaders with whom to consult on similar issues, so as to share strategies that have been effective elsewhere. 

IBM will work with municipalities this year that seek its input on projects such as the following:

  • Improving transportation options by connecting roads, bikepaths, sidewalks and rails
  • Protecting the environment with better water quality
  • Collecting revenue, lowering costs and managing budgets more efficiently
  • Leveraging local industries and natural resources for tourism and economic development
  • Making more nutritious and affordable food available in urban neighborhoods
  • Harnessing the sun and converting waste products into electrical energy
  • Preserving public safety during dangerous weather and man made events
  • Decreasing high crime impacts in blighted neighborhoods

Following are cities and regions that IBM is today announcing as winners of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants for 2014: 

Abuja, Nigeria
Ballarat, Australia
Baton Rouge, United States
Birmingham, United States
Brussels, Belgium
Dallas, United States
Dublin, Ireland
Durban, South Africa
Jinan, China
Mombasa County, Kenya
Niigata, Japan
Perth, Australia
Suffolk County, United States
Tainan, Taiwan
Vilnius, Lithuania
Zapopan, Mexico

Many previous grant recipients have implemented IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge recommendations and tangibly improved the lives of their citizens. For example:

  • Da Nang, Vietnam and the Delhi-Mumbai, India Industrial Corridor are improving the coordination of municipal agencies as they manage complex projects.
  • Date, Japan now provides more and better information to consumers about the safety of its agriculture -- key for a city perceived as near the site of a nuclear power plant disaster.
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands has reduced crime with strategies that include citizens' use of social media. Meanwhile, St. Louis, USA provides better information about criminals to judges prior to sentencing.
  • Edmonton, Canada has improved road safety by analyzing accident data and improving education programs. Meanwhile, Boston, USA is using data to manage traffic more efficiently and reduce pollution.
  • Jacksonville, USA has hired an economic development officer and passed legislation that streamlines city council processes for economic development.
  • Ottawa, Canada is developing the neighborhoods near its light rail system by giving incentives to developers and streamlining the permit process. Meanwhile, Providence, USA has streamlined and shortened the process for reviewing and approving construction plans and permits by putting more processes online and by creating a nimble agency.  This will improve economic development and inspire the streamlining of other city services.
  • Syracuse, USA created one of New York State's first land banks, enabling the city to reclaim  and work with the private sector to transform vacant properties.  This is revitalizing its neighborhoods and restoring its tax base.
  • Townsville, Australia is reducing its water and energy costs.  Its efforts have earned it that country's prestigious National Smart Infrastructure Award.  Meanwhile, Tshwane, South Africa conducted a successful crowdsourcing project to pinpoint and reduce water leaks. 

Smarter Cities Challenge is an elite program, having picked only 116 municipalities out of more than 500 applicants over the last four application cycles. Strong applications propose projects designed to address high priority problems of critical importance to citizens. The city or region must be able to share detailed information to help the IBM team analyze the issue. Leaders must also guarantee face-to-face access to city, regional, civic and business stakeholders for interviews with IBM team members so that they may comprehensively assess a given problem and recommend solutions.

IBM dispatches IBMers on these engagements who hail from all over the world, and who offer diverse perspectives and skills in the areas of marketing, communications, technology, research and development, government, human resources, finance, business, legal matters and specific disciplines such as transportation, energy and health.

Jennifer Crozier, IBM's vice president of Global Citizenship Initiatives, and whose team directs the Smarter Cities Challenge, said, "Congratulations to all of the cities and regional governments that have secured IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants for 2014. If history is any guide, these municipalities can look forward to tapping a treasure trove of skills and knowledge from some of IBM's best and brightest.  By collaborating with our experts, local governments will be receiving valuable counsel that could very well influence the success of issues that are foremost on the local agenda.  We hope to be a useful resource to the winning cities and regions and be a catalyst for progress."

A video summarizing the first three years of IBM Smarter Cities Challenge can be viewed here and more background about the program and its many successes can be found here.

Follow all of IBM's citizenship initiatives by visiting the CitizenIBM blog at www.citizenIBM.com and on Twitter, at @citizenIBM. For more information about IBM citizenship, please visit www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility

Contact(s) information
Ari Fishkind 
IBM Media Relations 

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