When IBM unveiled its Smarter Planet agenda in late 2008, government and business leaders in Poland were intrigued, but the global financial crisis made it difficult for them to act on their positive impulses. Today, in spite of lingering concerns about the situation in Western Europe, the Smarter Planet concepts are starting to gain traction–especially with government leaders.
The Polish central government is launching an e-health initiative, a new citizen ID program and a new electronic tax filing system. “Smart is all about how to make the citizen’s life easier, safer and more ecologically sustainable,” says Anna Sienko, IBM’s general manager for Poland and the Baltic countries.
In addition, government leaders increasingly recognize the importance of information technology in making government more efficient and effective, and in making the Polish economy more dynamic. The country’s finance minister, Jan Vincent-Rostowski, recently described a new cloud computing data center as “the heart of the ministry of finance.” And Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, the mayor of Warsaw, says “Innovation and high technology is very important for Poland. It’s an important source of GDP growth.”
One of the stimulants for this kind of thinking was the European Football Championships, called Euro 2012, which are being staged in Poland and the Ukraine in June and July. Leaders in a number of cities have looked hard not only at how they can improve their physical transportation infrastructure in advance of the contests but how they can make their transportation systems smarter.
For the first time, Sienko says, leaders from a variety of cities are entertaining the idea of sharing computing resources so they can all smarter transportation technologies–perhaps in a single cloud computing data center.
Government leaders get it. So what about business bosses? Sienko says chief executives in Poland now understand the importance of information technology, as well. “They’re looking at what else they can automate or simplify,” she says. “They see that modern technology is a competitive advantage.”
Poland is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe right now, and business and government leaders are determined to stimulate growth through innovation. ICM, a research institute affiliated with the University of Warsaw, does its own research in everything from weather prediction to quantum computing but also provides computational power for other researchers throughout Poland. Here’s how ICM works: