IBM experts to help B.R. with transportation issues via Smarter cities initiative

Business Report

Baton Rouge is one of just 16 communities around the globe that have been selected by IBM to benefit from the company’s Smarter Cities Challenge competitive grant program this year. The initiative, which IBM started in 2010, aims to address critical issues facing communities around the world by putting teams of IBM’s experts in selected cities for three weeks to work closely with city leaders and deliver recommendations. The grant awards are valued at $500,000.

Prior to arriving in cities selected to benefit from the Smarter Cities Challenge, IBM experts spend a few months studying a local issue chosen by city leaders. These issues range from clean water, healthy food and revenue generation to job development, efficient transportation and public safety. In Baton Rouge, IBM will help the city tackle transportation problems and improve transportation options by connecting roads, bike paths, sidewalks and rails.

“We fully anticipate some outstanding results for one of the world’s greatest cities,” said Mayor Kip Holden, who joined BRAC President/CEO Adam Knapp this morning to formally announce the grant award at a 10 a.m. press conference at North Boulevard Town Square. “I believe IBM will give us the first in-depth look at solutions to our city’s traffic problems,” Holden said.

Baton Rouge is one of just four municipalities selected for the initiative this year, along with Birmingham; Dallas; and Suffolk County, N.Y. New Orleans participated in the initiative in 2011. Other cities selected by IBM for this year’s program are located in Nigeria, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa, China, Kenya, Japan, Taiwan, Lithuania and Mexico. More than 500 communities have applied to participate in the initiative since it was launched, and of them, just 116 have been selected to date, IBM says.

“This is not a quid pro quo. This is competitive, and we just thank God for being chosen,” said Holden, adding that the aid of IBM in addressing the city’s traffic woes could prove “critical to the economic vitality of our city.”

Once the IBM experts arrive in Baton Rouge and other participating cities later this year, they will aim to help community leaders bridge silos in information and operations by introducing new technology, data analytics and other tools to help enhance collaboration across entities. The teams will also help cities foster civic engagement to drive better results, IBM says.

For more details on the Smarter Cities Challenge initiative, check out a video from IBM about the cities that have benefited from the program over the past three years, or visit the initiative’s website.

IBM is currently building a $55 million technology center and mixed-use complex with an eight-story office tower, 11-story apartment building and parking garage overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge. The project, announced last year, is expected to bring 800 new jobs to the city. The project recently earned a 2014 Corporate Investment and Community Impact award from Trade & Industry Development magazine.

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