Guest Contributors

Building a Smarter Edmonton

On March 15, 2012, IBM selected 33 cities worldwide to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge (#smartercities) grants during 2012.

Launched in 2011, this three-year, 100-city US$50 million program, IBM’s single-largest philanthropic initiative, funds in-person engagements staffed by teams of top IBM experts, who study and then make detailed recommendations addressing locally important urban issues.

With the announcement of the 2012 IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant winners, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel reflects on his city’s experience as a Smarter Cities Challenge grant winner.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant for 2012! I assure you that it will be an amazing experience for your city!

I may not be the most technologically savvy person, but I do recognize the remarkable power that technology has to help us do things better, faster, and smarter.

Last year, the City of Edmonton was honored as the first Canadian city to receive an
IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. Although we knew at that time we were on the right track when it comes to the innovative use of information technology, we realized we still had a lot of exciting work ahead in partnership with the IBM team.

We welcomed the Smarter Cities team to Edmonton for three intense weeks in June 2011. The IBM team immersed themselves in our culture which gave them the best opportunity to understand our city, the environment, and the people. I think this insight was a critical piece in the success of the partnership between IBM and City leaders to provide recommendations for our project: an integrated and safer transportation network through the smarter utilization of transportation data.

A huge advantage of our project was that it functioned like a pilot project. The data integration framework that was developed can be adopted across departments, making its impact City-wide. This framework will help the City to make more effective decisions and improve services for our citizens.

The experience has been absolutely phenomenal for our staff. It was exciting, challenging, and rewarding for everyone involved. It enabled us, as a City, to have greater confidence in the decisions we make each day. And I think that our citizens have seen the difference as well.

For instance, our work with IBM has helped us implement a better communication plan during the winter months which has previously been a challenge. Now we are reaching out through our website and social media, making sure Edmontonians know what to expect in real time. This has reduced frustration, increased safety, and generally made our city more accessible.

My advice would be to embrace the experience and think about the broader implications of the project you are working on. With a little creativity it can become a springboard to even greater things.

Serving Alberta’s Capital City for a third term, Mayor Stephen Mandel has led the
City of Edmonton since October 2004.

Related Resources:

IBM Names Worldwide Recipients of 2012 Smarter Cities Challenge Grants

How to Transform a City: Lessons from the Smarter Cities Challenge

Mayor Michael Nutter: The 21st Century-Ready Workforce

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Building a Smarter Chicago

Visualization and Open Data in Helsinki

Making the World Work Better — City by City

St. Louis Is Making All the Right Moves

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