Skip to main content

City Forward

The power to visualize a smarter city is in your hands

The right answers start with the right questions

How safe are Jerusalem neighborhoods? Are toll
increases reducing traffic congestion in New York City?
What type of education matches employment trends in Rome?

City Forward is a free, web-based platform analyzing and visualizing data from world cities. Watch the video.

City Forward is a free, web-based platform for analyzing and visualizing data from cities around the world. Watch the video. (00:01:02)



This isn’t a trivia game. These are real questions that can be posed by real people using data from public repositories, including vital statistics about the performance of many specific services such as education, safety, health, transportation, and land use, plus demographic data such as personal income, spending, population growth and employment.

The answers can be found on City Forward, a web-based platform that enables users―city officials, researchers, academics, interested citizens worldwide―to view and interact with city data while engaging in an ongoing public dialogue.

And it’s all completely free.

City Forward substitutes data for intuition, making cities more liveable, maintaining both government transparency, and civic literacy. Ultimately, obtaining unique insights into information will help society make smarter and more informed decisions to benefit the public good. - Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs

Putting data into the hands of the people

Right now, City Forward offers municipal data for more than 100 world cities, and it’s growing.

“In recent years, public agencies around the globe have moved toward transparency,” says City Forward Program Manager John Reinhardt. “Forward-thinking municipalities see that there are cost savings in opening up public data, common efficiencies that can be gained, and innovative solutions that can be shared.”

As the creator of City Forward, IBM is not the source of the data. That data is publicly available, but it is often scattered or exists in a variety of formats, making it hard to compare one city or service to another. Even in a single city, such data is often published independently by individual agencies, making it hard to see the bigger picture. City Forward addresses these issues by bringing useful statistics and graphing tools together in one place, offering easier and more insightful analysis.

But City Forward is just the platform. What makes it a powerful tool for improving cities is the community that forms around the platform. City Forward provides straightforward exploration tools that help users find patterns, illustrate trends and find correlations in the data to reveal new insights and point to new areas for further investigation.

When people come to a new understanding of an issue by exploring and analyzing the data, they need a forum to share their discoveries and collaborate on their proposals. City Forward encourages users to highlight important findings through discussion, comments and smarter practices within the City Forward community and beyond—wherever people gather to exchange ideas about cities.


Looking ahead

City Forward collaborates with non-profit organizations, research institutions and public policy schools to integrate their urban planning policy expertise and extensive network of contacts with cities, non-profits and academia.

The project also draws on extensive expertise from IBM, including the Smarter Cities Challenge. The Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant program that has awarded US$50 million worth of IBM expertise to 100 cities around the globe. Designed to cover the wide range of challenges facing cities today, these grants have addressed topics from urban agriculture to public safety.

The future of our cities depends on the boundless energy and insights made possible when people work toward common goals and understanding. City Forward helps do just that by enabling a greater understanding of the challenges our cities face by gaining an understanding of how cities currently work and what’s possible.

City Forward is a platform that enables users to uncover insights about cities and engage in the ecosystem of people working to move cities forward.

Begin your exploration

City Forward is designed to help aggregate, visualize and socialize cities' abstract vital signs to better understand the world we live in. The experience starts with an exploration: post a question and pull the data to answer it.

To start, select a city. Then choose one or several data sets to examine, such as water use, education attainment, traffic patterns, population or gross domestic product. Next, select the type of visualization, such as a bar chart, plot chart or map. The data begins to take shape.

For example, data in City Forward that measures traffic accidents in a given city might speak volumes about commuting habits and road conditions, but it also correlates to economic activity and air quality. Seeing this, a city might decide to make wireless Internet more readily available in the hope of encouraging telecommuting, reducing traffic jams, improving the air, or giving students access to additional academic resources. The result: safer, more educated and prosperous cities.