By Takreem El-Tohamy
There’s a wonderful word in Swahili that I think expresses one of the imperatives for the future of Africa. The word is “harambee.” It means pulling together, collaborating and supporting each other. I believe that one of the key factors in the ability of African countries to create sustainable and equitable economic growth will be the emergence of innovation ecosystems. Harambee perfectly captures an essential element of such ecosystems—the ability of institutions and individuals to pull together and build a mutually supportive environment.
Innovation ecosystems are complex organisms that are difficult to create yet tremendously powerful when they work. Think Silicon Valley. They require a melding of all of the capabilities of governments, businesses, financiers, universities, and individuals. Together, these organizations and individuals provide the web of support that makes it easier for startups to launch and grow quickly, and for established companies to innovate more aggressively. With that kind of support, African entrepreneurs and businesses will find it easier to produce new products and services, or even create whole new industries. You can think of an innovation ecosystem as a collective intelligence—harnessed for the good of society. Continue Reading »
By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications
When Osamuyimen (Uyi) Stewart left his native Nigeria 23 years ago to attend graduate school at Cambridge University, computer science was still just a concept in Africa. Although Stewart had learned some programming languages in college, he had never actually used a computer to develop an application.
This year, Stewart will return to a very different Africa, moving his family to Nairobi, Kenya to serve as chief scientist at IBM Research-Africa, IBM’s first research lab on the continent. In his new role, which he officially started in August working from the T.J. Watson Research Center in New York, Stewart spearheads innovation for a vast emerging market that is rapidly growing and embracing new technologies.
For Stewart, who previously worked at the IBM Services Innovation Lab and was responsible for technical strategy and program management across eight global labs, his return to Africa is filled with meaning and emotion. Whereas a quarter century ago using an actual computer was just a dream, today Stewart leads development of advanced systems to help solve some of Africa’s most pressing challenges. Continue Reading »
By Marcelo Lema
By Fabienne Guildhary, IBM Communications, Energy & Utilities/Media & Entertainment
Often, history serves as a tool to teach us valuable lessons and help us avoid repeating the same mistakes. As Chief Architect of the IBM Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities, Charles Vincent is leveraging his considerable knowledge of Electric Vehicles (EVs) to better shape the future of transportation.
Charles’ passion for EVs was sparked long before his career in electronic transportation took off. Fascinated by the technology at an early age, Charles devoted a lot of time poring over vintage publications on the subject, such as American Electric Vehicle Association newsletters from the early 1900’s. Then in the 1980’s, Charles got the opportunity to put his knowledge and passion to work.
By David Lee
Internal combustion engines fueled by petroleum continue to power the vast majority of vehicles around the world and continue to produce the largest percentage of CO2 from the transportation sector.
Since transportation is one of the largest sectors in Europe, it’s no wonder the mission of the European Green Cars Initiative is to support research and development on technologies that help advance such things as renewable, non-polluting energy, transportation safety, and traffic flow. In other words, the group’s objective is to help create a smarter, greener, integrated transport system.
As part of this effort is a campaign to increase the number of electric cars on our roads.
This is part of a series on how India cities are transforming to become smarter.
How can we rein in the wrath of torrential rains, and be better prepared even before they strike havoc disrupting city life? Well, when heavy rains lash the cities, causing traffic snarls, hit train and other services, we are forced to venture out of inertia. It’s time to wear the thinking hat. Why can’t our cities get accurate and timely weather forecasts that matter? How are cities across the world dealing with such a scenario?
Consider this…Life in Mumbai was thrown out of gear as the city received the heaviest rainfall of the season. Many local trains were cancelled or delayed, major roads got submerged and citizens returning home or going to hospital got stranded on roads and in trains – causing much public agony. Citizens were caught unaware till they hit the roads, only to get stuck.
Is there a way technology could be leveraged to prevent such recurring incidents that causes widespread public agony? Can our cities weatherproof the day to day operations to avoid such disasters? It’s great to know how the weather is going to be in our city two days from now. But, what does it take to devise a system that can help better prepare to fight such emergency? The challenge is while traditional weather forecasting can predict general weather conditions with some accuracy, it doesn’t always give government agencies and utilities the kind of information they can take action on.
Smarter Cities are defined as cities that provide sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life by leveraging information to make better decisions, anticipating problems to resolve them proactively, and, coordinating resources and processes to operate effectively.
How can cities become Smart by leveraging what they have? What kind of investments do we need to build a transformed city? Often, the thrust is on the kind of investment that needs to be pumped in to start the journey. 1 Trillion USD? You guessed it wrong.
There is a common misconception that “Smart Cities” would need tons of IT investment. While this is a truth to reach the nirvana stage, our city leaders can take small actionable steps in the right direction to imbibe smartness. What is required is a systemic thinking and a governance mechanism to engage citizens and the available infrastructure with common-sense tools to start on the journey of smart. Typically, cities have the highest mobile density and broadband penetration, and it is very easy to put these technologies to use to make cities smarter.
A strong collective will to use our resources optimally, and create infinite value out of it, can begin the journey towards a transformed planet, And, all this can be achieved by the innovative applications of the existing technologies, and available resources. How do we attain that? This needs better synergy between the ecosystem of city planners, municipalities, public and private entities.
Driving our cities as engines of economic growth would require an integrated approach, coupled with instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence. The above may seem to suggest that there is a need for strong infrastructure and instrumentation on top of it, so that cities can be viewed as a system of systems and can be managed accordingly.
Consider this. What do we get when social business can be put to use for citizen government interactions? The low hanging fruits on the journey to become a smarter city.
Some of the following examples cite some interesting innovations and how social business can be harnessed in the journey to smart. Imagine a scenario where there is mobile app that allows people to take photo of energy meter readings and upload to the utilities company’s website. On one hand, the citizens get a monetary discount and on the other the utility company gets accurate readings without investing in foot soldiers.
Think of a scenario where there is an app that allows people to take photos of violations (of any kind – traffic, unauthorized power tapping, water leakages and so on), geo tag it and upload to a website. Apart from allowing for faster resolution, this allows to create a pressure point on the local administration based on the number of complaints that come from any specific area (e.g. ward).
Another scenario could be where the traffic police can seek feedback on proposed one way rules (which is aplenty in many cities) or seek feedback on how to decongest certain stretches.
Well, the possibilities are enormous, and endless are the opportunities – all it takes is thought leadership and some jugaad innovation. Few steps in the right direction will ignite citizen participation in governance and that can be a self-propelling machine that takes a city to smarter level. Are we ready?
Check out other ideas for progress at India Onward, an IBM India initiative.