Nairobi is one of 32 cities worldwide to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant and a team of high-level IBM executives will be deployed to Nairobi for a month to work closely with local experts from the public and private sectors.
IBM East Africa General Manager Tony Mwai said that IBM executives will also collaborate with civil society organisations to help identify smarter transportation solutions that could help resolve the city’s traffic gridlocks that currently cost the Kenyan economy Sh50 million daily.
“In order for Nairobi to maintain its growing influence as an important African business hub, the city must leverage new approaches and technologies, especially in the area of transportation which stands as one of the city’s biggest and most important challenges,” he acknowledged.
He revealed the IBM team will be in Kenya from April 19 to May 10 to provide city leaders with analysis and recommendations to support successful growth, better delivery of municipal services, more citizen engagement and improved efficiency.
“Our consultants and technology specialists will help municipalities analyse and prioritise Nairobi’s needs, review strengths and weaknesses and implement what they’ve learned from the successful strategies used by other cities worldwide,” he explained.
Nairobi was recently highlighted in the 2011 IBM Commuter Pain Survey as having the 4th worst commute in the world and almost two thirds of people who travel in the city report that traffic negatively affects their work, family and health.
Ministry of Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said “Nairobi urgently requires a paradigm shift in thinking around how we manage transport issues as a city – we are confident that being part of IBM’s Smarter City Challenge programme will enable us to achieve that.”
Launched in 2011, the Smarter Cities Challenge is a three-year, 100-city US$50 million initiative that funds in-person engagements staffed by teams of top IBM experts, who study and then make detailed recommendations addressing locally important urban issues.
Nairobi’s application was one of over 140 received by the Smarter Cities Challenge programme this year out of a total of 40 countries around the world, and Accra, Ghana is the only other African city to have won the grant this year.
IBM will further assist each city chosen for the programme using City Forward (www.cityforward.org), a free online site they created with public policy experts to provide trends and statistics in a visual and accessible way for better decision making.
“It is encouraging to see such active participation by our government in such initiatives,” Ndemo noted.
“It indicates that the State is willing to engage in private-public partnerships, which in the past have yielded successful results,” he emphasised.
Ndemo added that he was confident that this partnership would result in meaningful action that will enable Nairobi to streamline its transport sector as it moves to increase its economic productivity.