Today cities account for more than half of the world's population, and by 2050 forecasters believe that the number of urban dwellers will rise to over 70 percent. As a result, cities are becoming the most important unit of government, charged with delivering services to the vast majority of the world's population. The worldwide recession and overtaxed budgets are forcing cities to tighten their belt, operate more efficiently, and seek smarter methods of managing resources and planning.
Today cities hold more that 50 percent of the world's population, and by 2050 IBM estimates that will rise to 70 percent or more. (Source: IBM)
Relief is being offered by IBM's $50 million Smarter Cities Challenge—a three-year program (2011-2013) that aims to help 100 cities worldwide operate smarter by harnessing new technologies and methodologies to solve long-standing civic challenges. Each 2012 award, which will average $500,000, including all provided services and software, will be made to cities-in-need that apply before Dec. 6, 2011. Last year, 26 awards were made to cities worldwide, with applications open to the governing bodies of cities speaking English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified) or Japanese.
Winners are visited by top IBM consultants, who spend weeks studying a city's problems to ascertain their needs—from finance to sustainability to public safety to citizen services. After conferring with officials, citizens, local businesses, academics and community leaders, IBM recommends actions that make smarter use of existing resources. Economic challenges, according to IBM, are met head-on with innovative recommendations on how to more efficiently deliver services to citizens. Experts from a variety of fields are brought into the process, including specialists in employment, health, public safety, transportation, social services, recreation, education, energy and sustainability.
Winning cities will be encouraged to become savvy users of the free online portal to city statistics called City Forward. By making public data available to City Forward, public policy experts worldwide can benefit from the success stories of other cities around the world, thus helping to identify local problems and potential solutions.
In 2012 and 2013, IBM will award 76 applying cities worldwide that demonstrate strong leadership and that are willing to collaborate with diverse stakeholders in the solutions to their outstanding problems. To read case studies on how the program has already benefited cities worldwide, visit the Smarter Cities Challenge Website, which describes IBM's recommendations to 2011 grant recipients. In the United States, for instance, several cities have acceded to IBM's 2011 recommendations, including ways to reduce the crime rate in St. Louis (Missouri), more efficiently manage aquaponics in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and reduce high traffic fatality rates in Edmonton (Alberta).