IBM launches Smarter Cities Challenge

IBM has officially launched its Smarter Cities Challenge, a competitive grant program that will award $50 million in technology and services to 100 municipalities worldwide. IBM experts will also provide city leaders with recommendations on smart growth and streamlined service delivery. The program represents the company’s largest philanthropic investment to date.

According to the company, winning cities will receive top IBM experts that will use the next three years to, “immerse themselves in local issues,” before they provide their recommendations on how to improve municipal service delivery. The municipal consultants will base their recommendations on data collected during their time in the field, their area of expertise and existing data accumulated from the ongoing Corporate Service Corps grant program. The Corporate Service Corps grant program works with local governments to find new ways of integrating technology, business and society.

The company has already conducted Smarter Cities pilots in Baltimore, Maryland; Austin, Texas; and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Greater Charlotte) designed to influence how the program is coordinated going forward.

The approximate value of each Smarter Cities Challenge grant will be equivalent to US$400,000.

“Cities are vitally important to society and the economy,” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, and President of IBM’s Foundation. “But they have enormous challenges and need the innovation, creativity and technical know-how to tackle longstanding, tough issues and plan for the future. We’re excited at the prospect of helping city leaders address the most demanding challenges of our time and make their cities even more liveable.”

Municipalities will be selected competitively based on a number of criteria, including the ability to clearly articulate between two and four strategic issues that can potentially and reasonably be acted upon. Also considered will be the city’s track record of innovative problem solving, commitment to the use of technology and open data, and demonstrated willingness to provide access and time with city leaders and public engagement.

Applications are open on an ongoing basis. The company also notes that while all municipalities are eligible, those with at least 100k people are likely to reap the most benefit from the program.