IBM Smarter Cities Challenge to Support Freedom Rings Initiative

March 10, 2011


Nearly half a million dollars in consulting and technology support from IBM that yesterday were pledged to the City of Philadelphia are more about education than gadgets.

The Smarter Cities Challenge, announced fall 2010, is a three-year initiative from IBM that will spread $50 million in services and tools to 100 city governments in the world. In the next six months, a half dozen consultants from IBM will start landing in Philadelphia and 23 other cities in this the first year of the Smarter Cities Challenge. Philadelphia is the largest of eight U.S. cities chosen in this round.

“I want to thank IBM for the opportunity to help us work smarter and more strategically about how we tackle the many challenges that face this great city,” Nutter said a small press gathering Wednesday. “This will lay the groundwork to create a citywide strategy that uses technology to support literacy and workforce development programs.”

IBM President of Corporate Citizenship Stan Litow was on hand, along with stakeholders from the Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership, a consortium of public and private entities led by the Urban Affairs Coalition and a centerpiece of the city’s Digital Philadelphia strategy. Two core reasons for Philadelphia’s application being chosen were, Litlow said, seeming buy in from the mayor and a clear proposal that fit into other city objectives. Philadelphia will receive between $400,000 and $450,000 in services and technology, Litlow said.

Once arrived, the IBM team will pore over available demographic, education, jobs and other available data, information and analysis, said Litlow, to make recommendations about investment and direction for Philadelphia’s workforce development. Put simply, the City of Philadelphia has won outside help in knowing how to better help prepare its residents for future employment.

The Freedom Rings coalition won an $11.8 million federal stimulus grant to increase internet, computer and media literacy access for low-income Philadelphians. The IBM grant can further the Freedom Rings coalition movement, said Urban Affairs Coalition President and CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner.

“Having this kind of technical support will not only make sure what we’re doing now can be successful,” Matlock-Turner said, “it also helps us plan for the future.”

Technically Philly