Making Cities Greener

A few months ago I wrote a post about a project I was very excited about: an effort I hoped would help bring transparency, efficiency and a "greening," for lack of a better word, to city governments in the United States and around the world. Here is how I described this project, and my role in it, and why I thought mayors and city councils of cities large and small should apply:

I am pleased to be consulting with IBM to help urban-dwellers benefit from their Smarter Cities Challenge, which is a project through which the company will grant $50 million in technology & consulting services to 100 cities around the world--50 of which will be in North America. From finding ways to use technology to improve municipal services to using innovation to ease congestion, this program could be a boon to many urban centers looking for the resources to improve the quality of living and attract business as well as residents.

Many who are familiar with my writing know me to be very critical of corporations when I think they're acting greedily and selfishly. But I also believe very strongly in supporting efforts when I believe they'll provide benefits to those of us not in the top 1% of income earners. I very much see this as one of the latter.

In that spirit, this past week The Smarter Cities Challenge announced the winners of this contest, urban centers that span the globe from Bucharest, Romania to Boulder, Colorado, and Townsville, Austria to Tshwane-Pretoria, South Africa. Some exciting projects are on the horizon here in the U.S., especially in regard to such important environmental-impact issues as water & land use.

For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mayor and progressive champion Tom Barrett, has asked IBM to prepare recommendations on how to convert abandoned factories and buildings into urban aqua-cultural assets, which in the short term promise to provide opportunity for civic engagement, and in the longer term viable economic development.

Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, a major construction project - to move Interstate 1-95 out of the center of downtown - is opening up 19.5 acres of newly-developable urban land, and will create a potential opportunity to bring data analytics to bear on the challenge of land use policy. Finally, Mayor Stephanie Miner and the City of Syracuse are using technology to try and find out all the differing factors that lead to a substantial increase in home & building vacancies and the eventual blight and crime that follow. They are looking to systems dynamics and predictive modeling capabilities to solve these important urban issues.

I am an urban kid through and through, and cities play such a central role in the culture of not only this country, but all those in which I have been lucky enough to dwell or visit. So I will admit it, I am excited to see these projects play out, and participate in hopefully creating greener, safer and more transparently governed cities. Onto the 21st Century, and hopefully, "smarter" cities.

Follow me on Twitter:@cliffschecter


AlterNet / By Cliff Schecter

Posted at March 16, 2011, 7:43am

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