IBM pledges $50 million to improve 100 cities


IBM announced today that it is launching the Smarter Cities Challenge, a grant program that will help cities better use technology to solve their many problems. IBM has pledged $50 million to help create 100 smarter cities around the world. The cities chosen will have a staff of IBM employees sent to their city to “immerse themselves in local issues involving the administration of healthcare, education, safety, social services, transportation, communications, sustainability, budget management, energy, and utilities.” The team will prioritize the city’s needs and come up with strategies to help.

“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.”

The first cities have already been chosen:

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Austin, Texas
  • Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Katowice, Poland
  • Chengdu, China
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This grant appears to be less about giving away technology and more about sharing ideas. The teams IBM sends out will collect and analyze data, then make suggestions to the city on how to improve its systems to reduce cost or improve productivity. With only $50 million and 100 cities to smear it around, that leaves about $500,000 per municipality, which will mostly pay for the staff IBM sends, one would guess. Most of the actual solutions will likely be the responsibility of the cities to fund and implement. The upsides for IBM are enormous. It can learn a lot about the urban environment, build a vast network of contacts, and sell many of its products and services to cities.

If you’d like to enter your city into the Smarter Cities Challenge, click here. What do you think of IBM’s plan? Good?