One hundred cities around the world will soon have a better understanding of how to improve city operations through the use of technology.

As part of IBM’s new Smarter Cities Challenge, teams of IBM experts will meet over the next three years with city leaders and give recommendations for successful growth, better delivery of municipal services, more citizen engagement and improved efficiency.

IBM will award $50 million worth of consulting, about $500,000 per city, to help improve local issues, from health care and education to transportation and budget management.

"Cities are vitally important to society and the economy," said Stanley S. Litow, president of the IBM Foundation, in a press release. "But they have enormous challenges and need the innovation, creativity and technical know-how to tackle longstanding, tough issues and plan for the future. We're excited at the prospect of helping city leaders address the most demanding challenges of our time and make their cities even more liveable."

Municipalities will be selected based on a number of criteria, including the ability to clearly articulate between two and four strategic issues that can be improved. Also considered will be the city's track record of innovative problem solving, commitment to the use of technology and open data, and demonstrated willingness to provide access and time with city leaders and public engagement.

Austin, Texas, was among the first cities chosen to participate in a pilot.

Stephen Elkins, Austin’s CIO, met with IBM last week to discuss issues like improving communication between IT departments across various government agencies and taking advantage of purchasing power and enterprise solutions.

Elkins said after a week of meeting with different government agencies, IBM will submit a proposal to the city on how to improve city operations, including some that aren’t technology related, like the economic division between Austin’s east and west sides.

“I’m interested to see what they recommend,” said Elkins. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done from an IT standpoint.”

Other pilot cities include Baltimore, Md., and Mecklenburg, County, N.C.

IBM said in the statement that these pilots will provide valuable information about how the company can help future selected cities, who in return for IBM’s investment will provide an equal commitment of time and talent to improving city functionality.

Cities interested in participating can apply for the program at smartercitieschallenge.org/

Lauren Katims Nadeau  |  Contributing Writer