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IBM Smarter Cities

In December 2010, an opportunity arose for our capital city to compete in the first worldwide competition of IBM’s The Smarter Cities Challenge. Launched in 2010, the competitive grant program is the largest single philanthropic effort at IBM, awarding $50 million worth of technology and services over the next three years to 100 winning cities.


I was pleased that my office could provide continuity during the period of transition in the administrations of then Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee and City of Providence Mayor-elect Angel Taveras. In an application process that required a city-state effort to complete the application process, cooperation between the offices would be critical for Providence to meet the program deadline. Earlier this month, Providence was recently selected as one of 24 cities in the country to receive as much as $400,000 in technology and services provided by the IBM grant. At the press conference, I was honored my staff was credited with shepherding the application through to completion, serving as liaison to the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices.

Through the Smarter Cities Challenge, Providence will work with IBM and a steering committee of state agencies and other stakeholders to develop a computerized land management system, essentially focusing on economic development. This new, integrated land management system will focus initially on the development of Providence’s emerging Jewelry District, where it can be used to streamlining permitting, market land opened up by the relocation of I-195, and track progress in greening the district. Once tested and refined, the computerized land management system can potentially be expanded for use by the whole city and state and ultimately provide a framework for the development of other regions. This type of integrated data system can accelerate solutions and collaborations to tackle Rhode Island’s core issues of health, energy, environment, education and society.

There will be great benefit to be gained for both the city and the state as we work together with IBM to improve the way we collect information and use it to plan for the best solutions to some of our common challenges. Providence created its winning proposal in collaboration with the Ocean State Consortium of Advanced Resources (OSCAR), a partnership of leading universities, government institutions, private companies, and social agencies aimed at tackling statewide problems in health care, education, economic development, and the environment. Now that we have been granted this opportunity to improve Providence’s land management infrastructure, we must continue to work together for our common interests in achieving long-term economic development in Rhode Island.