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Surrey to receive philanthropic expertise from IBM

March 16, 2012

The city of Surrey has been awarded a lucrative $400,000 grant that its mayor hopes to use to create youth and childhood development programs.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge selected 33 cities from around the globe that demonstrated a desire to innovate in an array of areas including healthcare, education, social services, transportation, budget management and energy. The program will deliver $50 million in services to 100 cities over the next three years.

“The whole notion of the smarter city is how you use data and information in new and creative ways,” said John Longbottom, who heads the Canadian division of IBM’s Smarter Cities program.

“That means creating sophisticated models to look for patterns and connections. A situation like we’ve got in Surrey, we look for interventions in early childhood development and interventions in the long-term,” he said.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said with a third of the city’s population under the age of 19, the expert analysis provided by IBM’s team will help create more effective youth-targeted programs and services.

“We can use the data to drill down and find out what the issues are in different neighbourhoods and areas and then implement programs to assist kids within those areas,” Watts said.

When asked about the city’s existing relationship with IBM, Watts said this partnership is strictly based on philanthropic principles.

“We want to work to leverage the data that’s out there to help the next generation to be all that they can be,” she said.

Longbottom said its team — comprised of technical experts, researchers and consultants — will likely be deployed to Surrey within the first half of 2012 to provide analysis on some “very enticing proposals.”

“We hope this becomes a kickstarter of various initiatives that cities will undertake. We hope it creates some level of spark to work on after the effort is passed. We did an event with the city of Edmonton last year. The results are being tracked against our recommendations,” he said.

Ottawa was the only other Canadian city to be awarded a grant this year. Find the complete list of cities here.

Edmonton chose to use its partnership with IBM to improve road safety.

-Palmer

Originally published in Metro, Mar. 16, page 06.

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