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33 cities land 'Smarter Cities' grants

Posting in Cities

From Accra to Siracusa, cities across the globe received grants from IBM to improve their social, technological and physical systems.

It's a good day for 33 of the world's cities.

IBM announced this morning the winners of the latest batch of grants for its Smarter Cities Challenge, doling out millions as part of the three-year, $50 million program.

Here's how it works: cities are asked to compete for IBM's human and technological resources by proposing projects most deserving of the cash. Big Blue then chooses which urban areas are most worthy, dispatching its experts to work their magic.

The winning cities "proposed intriguing projects and areas of focus for IBM experts," the company says, such as jobs, transportation, health, education, sustainability and urban planning.

In other words, everything that can ail the modern city.

The 2012 winners are:

  • Accra, Ghana
  • Ahmedabad, India
  • Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  • Birmingham, UK
  • Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • Cheongju, Korea
  • Chonburi, Thailand
  • Curitiba, Brazil
  • Da Nang, Vietnam
  • Dortmund, Germany
  • Durham, North Carolina, USA
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • Geraldton, Australia
  • Houston, Texas, USA
  • Ishinomaki, Japan
  • Jacksonville, Florida, USA
  • Jurong Lake District, Singapore
  • Louisville, Kentucky, USA
  • Malaga, Spain
  • Medellin, Colombia
  • New Taipei City, Taiwan
  • Nanjing, China
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Omaha, Nebraska, USA
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Pune, India
  • Rabat, Morocco
  • Rosario, Argentina
  • Siracusa, Italy
  • Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
  • Tshwane, South Africa
  • Toluca, Mexico

For those keeping track at home, that's eight for the United States.

A common theme among the projects was "the willingness to exchange ideas and data freely between and among citizens, elected officials, non-profits, businesses, and city agencies," as well as a healthy dose of demonstrable leadership, IBM said.

In short: collaboration and systems-thinking, from using analytics in schools to integrating modes of transport.

Last year, 24 cities were the recipients of IBM's grants; seven cities received them in 2010. Some of the winners have already implemented systems based on IBM's advice, though their true impact won't be successfully measured until several years have passed.

Nonetheless, free money is free money. Few cash-strapped cities are willing to ignore financial assistance on the way to solving their most pressing problems.

Photo: Accra, Ghana during a 2008 blackout. (George Appiah/Flickr)

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure