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Making great Virginia cities smarter cities…

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By now, you've probably seen those IBM commercials that end with the tag line "building a better planet." Those commercials reference IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge. This is a program whereby IBM will award $50 million worth of technology and consulting services to 100 cities around the world – 50 of them in North America. The program has been ongoing for the last two years, and the application process has just been opened up for 2012.

The Smarter Cities grant would be helpful in dealing with any number of challenges that Richmond, Norfolk, or Roanoke face, ranging from from finding ways to streamline city administration to helping transit management through innovative technology applications. IBM sends experts to the winning cities to help them address major issues like traffic, public safety, economic development or sustainability – all things that could prove useful.

A program like this helps cities foster citizen engagement, services and efficiency through technology, resulting in an better standard of living citizens. It fascinates me because it marries two of my interests: public engagement and technology.

Pericles of Athens – who was perhaps the first mayor of a city – once said: "All things good of this earth flow into the City because of the City's greatness." IBM's Smarter Cities program helps cities foster citizen engagement, services and efficiency through technology, resulting in an better standard of living for the people of the city.

It fascinates me because it marries two of my interests: public engagement and technology, at a level that affects us immediately and regularly: the local level. And this isn't just theoretical.

Already, IBM teams have worked in Austin, TX , Boulder, CO, Mecklenburg County, NC, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Katowice, Poland and Chengdu, China.

An IBM team helped address disparities between East and West Austin by helping the city coordinate and prioritize infrastructure investments.

In Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett asked IBM to analyze how the city's emerging aquaponics industry could have a positive impact on the municipal food supply, industry, health, and growth. And IBMers worked with the City of Baltimore to analyze the disconnect between citizens and city services.

The catch is (and you knew there was one) that cities have to apply by December 16th in order to be eligible to win. Here's what it takes to join Austin, Rio, Baltimore and others:
1. Fill out the application here: https://smartercitieschallenge.org/reg.do
2. The proposal has to include the following criteria in order to be successful:
– Describe 1-3 potential problems or opportunities to address with the grant
– Provide clear, compelling evidence that the city is well positioned to utilize the resources offered in the Smarter Cities Challenge
– Outline how a grant of IBM talent and technology has the potential to substantially enhance the city's capacity to act on key issues
– Highlight recent efforts to develop innovative solutions to public problems, including any initiatives to implement new technologies or open data policies
– Demonstrate the city is ready to match IBM's investment with its own commitment of time and talent, including access to the city agencies and personnel relevant to the project

I know that any one of Virginia’s cities can benefit from this; but the only way to do so is by applying. If you'd like to know more, you can watch a short video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PtiWdS6UZA

(full disclosure: I'm assisting IBM with publicity surrounding the Smarter Cities challenge.)