Development in Communities

Development in Communities

At IBM, we believe it is our obligation to apply our collective expertise and services to help transform communities, cities, companies, and countries. We do this by directly engaging with individuals and organizations to improve the systems that facilitate life on this planet. In 2013, we expanded our efforts in nearly every aspect of our development engagements.

Smarter Cities Challenge

Announced in November 2010, the Smarter Cities Challenge began as a $50 million competitive grant program to provide teams of IBM experts to cities around the world over a three-year period. Today, Smarter Cities Challenge is transforming how companies, foundations, and think tanks engage with cities to make them smarter and improve city services. The program shares the deep subject-matter expertise of IBM executives and experts with city leaders around the world. IBM teams work to help cities by applying their knowledge in a collaborative, constructive, and transparent manner to produce actionable solutions and recommendations. The intensive, on-the-ground approach of these engagements give IBMers the chance to align with city leadership on its approach to a problem and the roadmap it delivers. The goal is for cities to use the roadmap to help improve services and make cities safer and more vibrant while enhancing the skills of city managers.

The result of a Smarter Cities Challenge engagement could help transform the way a city works—how it uses data, manages complex systems and organizations, and engages citizens to improve quality of life.

In 2013—the third full year of the program—180 IBMers were deployed to 31 cities to create strategies for mayors to help improve efficiency, spur economic growth, connect citizens to social services, and more.

Smarter Cities Challenge 2013 cities

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Buffalo, NY, USA

Burlington, VT, USA

Cape Town, South Africa

Chennai, India

Christchurch, New Zealand

Copenhagen, Denmark

Date, Japan

Faro, Portugal

Foshan, China

Fresno, CA, USA

Gold Coast, Australia

Jeju, Korea

Khon Kaen, Thailand

Knoxville, TN, USA

Kyoto, Japan

Lagos, Nigeria

Lodz, Poland

Makati City, Philippines

Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

New Taipei City, Taiwan

Pingtung County, Taiwan

Porto Alegre, Brazil

Québec City, Canada

Reno, NV, USA

Richmond, VA, USA

Stavanger, Norway

Trujillo, Peru

Tucson, AZ, USA

Valparaiso, Chile

Waterloo, Canada

$50 million

competitive grant program that provides teams of IBM experts to cities around the world over a three-year period


IBMers deployed to 31 cities in 2013 to work with local leaders


IBMers deployed to over 100 cities since 2010 to work with local leaders

Smarter Cities Challenge draws on the expertise and knowledge we’ve gained through our work. Over the course of each Smarter Cities Challenge project, a carefully selected team of IBMers from across the business helps the municipality analyze and prioritize its needs, review strengths and weaknesses, and learn from the successful strategies used by other cities. The team also studies the role that intelligent technology might play in uniting and advancing different aspects of city life. The team ultimately delivers to the city a roadmap that identifies ideas and opportunities designed to help make cities healthier, safer, smarter, more prosperous, and attractive to current and prospective residents and businesses.

“The major benefit to Tucson Water from participating in the Smarter Cities Challenge was that it provided a rigorous and strategic evaluation of planned capital investments in technology improvements and helped staff identify a wide range of potential applications for the resulting ‘big data,’ [enabling us] to improve both customer service and management decision-making.” Jonathan Rothschild, mayor, Tucson

For nearly four years, IBM has been helping cities in both developed and developing countries collect and analyze critical data, gaining a clearer understanding of how these complex systems of systems really work, and how they can work better. With this understanding, Smarter Cities Challenge team members work alongside leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and immerse themselves in issues critical to each city, such as the administration of healthcare, education, public safety, social services, transportation, communications, sustainability, budget management, and energy and utilities. Smarter Cities Challenge grants are valued at $400,000, on average.

“The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team delivered recommendations on branding and marketing our city's agricultural products, and a roadmap to modernize our agricultural system, that was full of new perspectives, an outside point of view, and business insights. The team's work will stimulate the growth of Date City in the future.” Shoji Nishida, mayor, Date, regarding a Smarter Cities Challenge grant received to support the revitalization of the city’s agricultural industry after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster

Porto Alegre, Brazil

For more than 23 years, the city of Porto Alegre has been a leader in participatory budgeting, whereby citizens have an opportunity to add services and public-works projects to the city's budget. Mayor José Fortunati asked IBM to help Porto Alegre on its journey to becoming a cognitive democracy, with a focus on enhancing the participatory budgeting initiative to reach the broader population and better inform the decision-making process for investments in local projects.

In April 2013, the Smarter Cities Challenge team delivered recommendations designed to promote collaborative decision-making by creating an open data portal and implementing community polling; improve citizens' lives by opening up public transportation information and instrumenting streets, taxis, and official vehicles; build on the existing 311 system, and establish a Cognitive City office in charge of directing process and governance improvements, as well as the adoption of open data initiatives.

The city has already approved a bill to add instrumentation to taxis per the Smarter Cities Challenge team's recommendation, and accepted bids to install satellite monitoring systems that will transmit location, travel time, and other information every 30 seconds. This information is sent to the Public Transportation and Circulation Company to enable the city to assess service quality and demand.

“The participation of Porto Alegre’s government in IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge has definitely represented a milestone for all of us of the city’s public administration. The work developed by the executives involved in the program resulted in a true action plan for our teams and proposed a deep reflection for our managers and leaders. Supported by IBM professionals, we were able not only to map a series of initiatives that were already in progress in the city, but we were also provided with new alternatives and paths to follow. The challenge has showed us more clearly the connection between our management and important global trends.” José Fortunati, mayor, Porto Alegre

Syracuse, New York

In 2013, the city of Syracuse, New York, leveraged the data and analytics expertise from its Smarter Cities Challenge grant to help create one of New York’s first land banks, enabling the city to reclaim nearly 2,000 vacant properties and repurpose them in ways that can revitalize neighborhoods and restore the tax base by millions of dollars over the next eight years. In October 2013, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman awarded the Syracuse land bank $3 million in competitive funding to further support the city's rapid investment in acquiring properties and restoring neighborhoods. And in her 2014 State of the City address, Mayor Stephanie Miner announced that Syracuse had already seen a 69 percent increase, to $2.5 million, in collection of delinquent property taxes and fees compared to the previous year and credited the Smarter Cities Challenge for helping the city make bold changes.

“The Smarter Cities Challenge enabled us to use data and analytics to help make decisions so we could focus the city’s resources on areas where they would be most effective. In some cases, some of our data goes back to the founding of our city. What we needed—and what the Smarter Cities Challenge team helped us realize—was a way to transform data into meaningful and actionable information.”Stephanie Miner, mayor, Syracuse

Building new futures in Syracuse

Townsville, Australia

Like many other cities, Townsville, Australia, is grappling with the challenge of sustainable growth, including managing scarce water resources.

The Smarter Cities Challenge team advised the city on ways to leverage existing smart technologies and give residents the tools to change their behavior, become more energy efficient, and use less water. Following the project, the city worked with IBM to develop a Smart Water pilot to reduce water consumption in nearly 300 homes. The project identified leaks in approximately 12 percent of those homes, enabling the city to help residents mitigate the problem, resulting in water savings. The pilot earned the prestigious National Smart Infrastructure Award, presented by Australia’s Secretary of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

In 2013, mayors and leaders of Smarter Cities Challenge cities continued to deploy the recommendations of our teams, deepening the impact of the program in communities and delivering tangible results for citizens around the world. In late 2013, IBM announced that it would extend the Smarter Cities Challenge, based on strong ongoing demand from cities around the world for the unique value that the program provides.

Corporate Service Corps

IBM launched the Corporate Service Corps (CSC) in 2008 as a vehicle for improved leadership development and corporate social responsibility. Since then, CSC has evolved into an award-winning, skills-based, philanthropic leadership development program that blends social responsibility and business expertise to produce a triple benefit: premier leadership development for IBM employees, pro-bono problem solving for governments and communities, and a greater understanding of communities and their needs for IBM. By deploying its top talent to collaborate with governments, non-governmental organizations, and communities in emerging markets, IBM not only helps bring about meaningful and sustainable change in regions of the world that need it most, but also develops the capabilities of its emerging leaders and builds lasting relationships around the globe. We are working to transform foreign aid into citizen diplomacy.

Through our CSC initiatives, IBM is helping to drive the evolution of skills-based citizen diplomacy, resulting in measurable outcomes on some of the world’s most pressing issues. By creating deeper public-private partnerships and applying skills-based problem-solving techniques, we are working to transform how pro-bono problem-solving can address today’s most challenging social issues. CSC teams carry out carefully woven, multi-country projects based on common themes—such as patient records tracking—with a spirit of openness and collaboration among corporate peers, as well as between the public and private sectors.

IBM Corporate Service Corps

Essential pro bono problem-solving for communities around the world. In its first five years, IBM’s CSC:


2,400 IBMers

Sent participants to

34 countries

Helping to improve life for at least

140,000 people

Pro-bono consulting services valued at

56 million

CSC teams comprise 8 to 15 IBMers who spend approximately six months on an engagement—three months in preparation, one month full-time in the local community, and two months in post-service work. On location, these teams collaborate with government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations in areas where business, technology, and society intersect to develop sustainable economic solutions.

In 2013, CSC sent more than 100 teams of IBM top talent to more than 30 communities in 22 countries, delivering 100 vitally important projects designed to help communities succeed. IBM teams created solutions in new sites including Angola, Ethiopia, the Philippines, South Africa, and Chile. In addition, CSC sent its 15th team to Brazil, its 21st team to India, and its 22nd team to China. Since the start of the program, more than 2,400 IBMers from more than 50 countries have delivered in excess of 850 projects impacting 140,000 individuals, more service than any other company.

“The IBM CSC program allowed us to establish a plan of action with better visibility, clarity, and pragmatism. We are now much more conscious of our potential and our capacity to deliver our projects.” Adil Hafidi Alaoui, president, Fondation Tanger Al-Madina in Morocco

Building upon an already strong public and private collaboration, CSC continues to develop relationships to deliver impactful work. For the past three years, IBM has worked with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and PYXERA Global to deliver projects in places such as Kenya, Kazakhstan, Senegal, and Ghana. Long-term relationships with Digital Opportunity Trust and Australian Business Volunteers also enable us to deliver quality projects throughout the developing world, addressing a variety of societal issues such as education, healthcare, and economic development.

IBM Corporate Services Corps: A fifth year anniversary

Additionally, IBM continues to be a strong advocate for citizen diplomacy by collaborating with other companies to help them explore the development of their own programs while working together to deliver community impact. One such example: In September 2013, IBM sent four JPMorgan Chase employees on assignment with its own CSC team to Uberlandia, Brazil.

“It's definitely been a life-changing experience for me. I feel I've come back to my organization as a better manager.” Paul LaRusso, vice president, JPMorgan Chase

Other examples of work done by CSC teams in 2013 include:

IBM Corporate Services Corps: The JPMorgan Chase experience


The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is an initiative to help save the lives of people around the world suffering from HIV/AIDS and other diseases, such as cervical cancer. PEPFAR is the cornerstone and largest component of the President’s Global Health Initiative, which has a special focus on improving the health of women, newborns, and children.

In 2012 and 2013, two CSC teams worked with PEPFAR and the government of Kenya to help improve cervical cancer screening and treatment data management and reporting, scale up a national cervical cancer prevention (HPV vaccination) program, and establish an approach to developing a national cancer registry. The teams made recommendations to:

By adopting these recommendations, Kenya’s Ministry of Health can work to improve the collection, management, and reporting of reliable data for fact-based decision-making and policy-making to reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality associated with cancer and to improve the lives of all Kenyans.

Coders4Africa (C4A)

This nonprofit organization’s mission is to create and support a Pan-African community of competent, internationally certified professionals focused on developing IT tools for African agriculture, business, education, healthcare, government, and general social needs. C4A provides African programmers and developers a gateway to online, high-quality training and certification in new technologies that dominate the software development industry, in order to help turn IT professionals into entrepreneurs and turn great ideas into viable and sustainable businesses and community offerings. C4A has developed a virtual network of coders from African countries and Africans in the diaspora who share knowledge with chapters in seven African countries, including Senegal, which has more than 400 members. In September 2013, the IBM CSC team worked with C4A in Senegal to complement coders’ technical training with hands-on entrepreneurial and business training. After this engagement with CSC, three applications from C4A have gone on to receive funding to build key mobile and cloud solutions in healthcare, agriculture, and field-data collection—important growth areas in the IT industry—that will help give coders in Africa an opportunity to compete for business and grow an important area for the local economy.

“One of the biggest challenges for local African coders is moving forward, commercializing their products, and shaping their newly created companies. They lack the necessary business know-how and product and marketing strategies to move their products to market and in the process grow their newly created startups. This is the area where the IBM CSC has made the biggest contribution. We hope to package their work and offer it to future developers.” Amadou Daffe, CEO and co-founder, Coders4Africa

Banco de Alimentos de Mérida

In Mérida, Mexico, a CSC team advised local food bank Banco de Alimentos de Mérida (BAMAC) on ways to improve food sourcing and distribution, as well as assisted in the longer-term goal to help feed more people in need by reviewing their overall operations. The IBM CSC team made several recommendations related to operations and logistics, communications and leadership, and expanding the donor network. BAMAC has already seen improvements in food delivery times as a result of a new inventory system, helping to deliver fresher food to those in need. In addition to the work with BAMAC, strong connections were developed between the larger Banco de Alimentos del Estado de Mexico (the national food bank network with more than 60 members) and the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) that will enable the team’s findings to reach a much larger network on both the national and international level.

“The successful collaboration between IBM Corporate Service Corps and Banco de Alimentos de Mérida is a great example of how GFN helps international businesses find ways to activate their global philanthropy on a local level. One of the ways GFN supports our network food banks is by representing them to best-in-class corporations—like IBM—that want to make a difference in the world. Working with GFN, these global good citizens know they will be helping credible organizations that operate at the highest levels. We are thrilled that the IBM Corporate Service Corps project with the food bank in Mérida, Mexico was a success for all involved.”Jeff Klein, president and CEO, GFN

SME Toolkit

IBM and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) have worked together to create the Small and Medium Enterprise Toolkit, or SME Toolkit, that provides entrepreneurs and small-business owners who visit the website tools to help them grow their business in critical areas such as finance, accounting, international business, marketing, and human resources. SME Toolkit is transforming how small business owners develop the skills needed to grow their companies and add jobs and resources by giving them real-time access to practical business knowledge, information on local regulations, and online tools—all in their own language—to help them overcome the many business challenges they face as they grow their companies. IBM supports SME Toolkit in order to accelerate economic development and job growth in geographies and communities that are striving to increase their engagement in the market economy, as well as to help spur development of women- and minority-owned businesses in the United States.

“Alongside IBM's business and technological expertise, we have brought entrepreneurship skills, which are life skills, to entrepreneurs and business owners in low-income countries around the world through SME Toolkit. IBM is truly helping to deliver innovation that matters for the world.” Jin-Yong Cai, CEO and executive vice president of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group

Organizations hosting the SME Toolkit site in each country are responsible for localizing, customizing, and translating content so that it speaks to the local markets. These organizations, such as the Enterprise Development Centre, a nonprofit institute that’s part of the Pan-Atlantic University in Nigeria, can also help nurture local businesses and improve their chances of survival.

In 2013, more than five million small businesses used SME Toolkit to help support their growth. SME Toolkit sites were launched in Jordan, Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, and Gabon, bringing the total number to 41 countries and 18 languages supported.

5 million+

small businesses took advantage of SME Toolkit, now available in 41 countries and 18 languages, in 2013.

SME Toolkit in Africa

IBM employees in participating countries use SME Toolkit to conduct mentoring and expert workshops with small-business owners and students interested in starting companies. In 2013, workshops hosted in Nigeria, Indonesia, India, and the United States leveraged IBM employees as expert mentors or to deliver workshops on topics such as technology and leadership.

IBM has dedicated more than $7 million to improve the toolkit’s usability and performance, enhancing functionality with the creation of a resource hub, learning location, and meeting place for small and medium businesses. SME Toolkit is a leading example of IBM’s commitment to help small businesses grow.

SME Toolkit success story

Diana Al-Dajani is the founder and owner of EduTechnoz, a software development firm that creates online games to teach children Arabic. The games inspire children to fall in love with the Arabic language by enabling them to master it in a fun way. Al-Dajani got her own inspiration from SME Toolkit when she attended her first workshop organized by Qatar Development Bank, the SME Toolkit collaborator in Qatar.

Before learning about SME Toolkit, Al-Dajani’s main source of information was her friends, as she did not trust the information she found through web searches. Once Al-Dajani started using the toolkit, she was able to access information on business registration in Qatar, get ideas on possible organizational structures for her company, and access additional information about the local market.

Al-Dajani has also made extensive use of the practical tools and forms offered on the SME Toolkit website, such as cash flow statements and pricing tools. With the site’s help, she developed a business plan that won second place at the Al Fikra National Business Plan Competition, and she was named Best Female Entrepreneur by the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region in 2013.

Today, EduTechnoz has more than 20,000 registered users.

“I would not have been able to achieve all this without SME Toolkit.” Diana Al-Dajani, founder and owner, EduTechnoz
EduTechnoz, fun Arabic learning for children

EduTechnoz, fun Arabic learning for children

Supplier Connection

Supplier Connection is transforming the relationship between small businesses and Fortune 500 corporations, while also promoting job growth in the United States, by helping small businesses access the supply chains of large companies. A contract from a large corporation can mean the difference between a small business surviving and truly thriving. Such contracts bring with them the cash flow required to help stabilize small businesses, enabling them to hire more people in order to serve a large contract and to leverage the credibility of having a Fortune 500 customer to attract new business and increase sales with existing customers. The program’s web-based portal was created and is maintained by IBM with more than $13 million in grant funding from the IBM International Foundation since its inception in 2011.

Small businesses are crucial to the vitality of the US economy. They comprise more than 99 percent of all companies and half of all private sector employment. However, small businesses often find it challenging to enter the supply chain of large companies, especially global companies. IBM and a consortium of 26 large corporations are collaborating to make it easier for small businesses to become suppliers to large companies via one-stop shopping, increasing their ability to expand operations and hire new employees.

Supplier Connection provides small companies with a standardized, streamlined way to register basic information, share business practices, and potentially connect with other small and large businesses to enhance their opportunity for growth. According to the Center for an Urban Future, small companies could potentially double the number of employees and increase their revenue within two years of working with a large corporation. In turn, large companies working with small businesses have more opportunities to find registered suppliers, communicate with them, and forge stronger relationships.

“IBM Supplier Connection really has leveled the playing field, because now you can be a five- or 10-employee company, and you’re not just competing with companies around the block, you’re really able to break into markets around the world by accessing these large corporations—and that wasn’t happening before. Small businesses were very local, and this has really given the tiniest small businesses a huge leg up and an opportunity that they just didn’t have before.” Jonathan Bowles, executive director, Center for an Urban Future
The Supplier Spotlight – Supporting small business growth through Supplier Connection

The Supplier Spotlight – Supporting small business growth through Supplier Connection

In 2013, Supplier Connection corporate members spent more than $1.5 billion directly on thousands of small businesses throughout the United States. Large corporate members have collectively increased their total spend on small businesses in the United States to nearly $15 billion. That represents a 3.5 percent increase in spending by these members with small businesses, compared to spending in 2012, marking a departure from the recent trend of large companies consolidating their spending on fewer, larger suppliers.

Supplier Connection success story: JP Promotional Products

JP Promotional Products, which distributes imprinted promotional products throughout the United States, was started in 2003 by Shari Pulver. Her father, Robert Rosenthal, joined the company in 2005, after more than 35 years in the promotional products industry. In 2013, the father-daughter team decided to join Supplier Connection.

“After a little research, we realized that Supplier Connection could not only help us secure an order with an existing buying member, but also benefit our business in the long run. We now have the opportunity to bid on significant orders that previously would not have been available to us. We’re also part of a network of buying members and other suppliers, and those connections would be very difficult to initiate on a local level.” Robert Rosenthal, owner, JP Promotional Products
$1.5 billion

spent by corporate members with small businesses registered on Supplier Connection in 2013

City Forward

Fueled by the movement toward open access to data, City Forward is transforming how citizens interact with their cities by making complex data sets easier to explore, understand, and discuss. By facilitating the use of this data, City Forward aims to empower organizations and citizens to better understand and drive change in their communities, and to encourage the discovery of unexpected correlations and ideas.

City Forward is an open, web-based platform designed for city officials, researchers, academics, and interested citizens worldwide to view and interact with city data while engaging in an ongoing public dialogue. Information found on City Forward includes publicly available data related to education, traffic, crime, health, and demographics of cities.

City Forward’s straightforward exploration tools enable users to identify patterns, trends, and correlations in data that may reveal new insights and point to new areas of interest for further investigation. These explorations can then be shared and discussed within the City Forward community and beyond—wherever people gather to exchange ideas about cities.

City Forward contains data collected from local and national government agencies—from more than 200 cities around the world—and remains one of the only tools of its kind that allows for easy comparison of open data across cities. The site uses the latest IBM technology, including IBM Cognos® Business Intelligence, Framework Manager, and IBM Connections to help bring open data, and the insights it reveals, to life.

Learn more about City Forward