National Broadband Network testbed Townsville was the only Australian city among 24 selected for IBM’s inaugural ‘Smart Cities Challenge’ last week.
The grant program offered a total of US$50 million ($49 million) worth of “pro bono strategic planning advice” to 100 global cities over the next three years.
Cities were selected for their stated urban concerns and willingness to match IBM’s investment with their own commitment of time and resources.
IBM also preferred cities with publicly available data that could be used in its data exploration platform, City Forward.
Grant recipients came from the US, Canada, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Japan, Romania, the Netherlands, the UK, Finland, France and Australia.
US cities were most commonly chosen; an IBM spokesman explained that technical experts, researchers and consultants would be deployed to “immerse themselves in local issues”.
Staff would attempt to analyse and prioritise cities’ needs, strengths and weaknesses to determine technology’s role in areas like health, safety, education, transportation, utilities and employment.
IBM valued each grant at $400,000. It did not disclose how many staff members would be deployed to Townsville for the grant.
According to Andrew Hocking, Corporate Citizenship and Affairs manager of IBM ANZ, Townsville had demonstrated a “commitment to the use of data to make better decisions, and for its desire to explore and act on smarter solutions to their most pressing concerns”.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy welcomed the IBM grant, stating that smart cities were “an important part of Australia’s digital economy”.
According to NBN Co’s head of corporate services, Kevin Brown, the prize confirmed “Townsville’s status as one of the world’s smartest cities”.
“Its use of intelligent technology, including the NBN and smart grids, is a blueprint for making cities more sustainable and better places to live,” Brown stated.
Townsville was one of five NBN pilot sites on the Australian mainland. About 3,100 premises in Townsville’s western suburbs would receive fibre connectivity for the pilot, with another 3,000 to be added in the stage two rollout.