Department of Neighborhoods

Press Release

Mayor Parker Launches Houston's IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Project
IBM Team Will Guide City Leaders to Map Out GIS-Assisted Online Access to Comprehensive Services for Residents



August 7, 2012 -- Houston Mayor Annise Parker officially launched the City of Houston’s IBM Smarter Cities Challenge project, funded by an IBM grant awarded to Houston and championed by its Department of Neighborhoods.


The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant program is a three-year IBM philanthropic initiative, which provides the company’s top talent and expertise to cities and counties to address key challenges. The City of Houston is one of only eight U.S. municipalities selected this year to receive a grant, each valued at $400,000.


The City’s IBM Smarter Cities Challenge project will take place over a three-week period, August 6-24, during which a five-member team of IBM experts will live in the City, meet with stakeholders and devise a plan for streamlining online access to services, resources and information for Houstonians. The core objective of the project is to define how the City can more effectively partner with key community organizations and share information to create comprehensive online resources for residents, particularly students. The team will study how citizens can find relevant online information in a more intuitive way through user-friendly GIS search features.


Photo 1

Pictured L-R with the Mayor: Mike Davies from Austin; Brenden Grady, based in Westford, VA; Shinichi Nakashio from Tokyo, Japan; Kelly Tinsley from Southland, MI; and Gary Zeien from Minneapolis, MN. Click image above to see a full-sized photo.

The mayor officially welcomed the members of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Houston team, as follows: Mike Davies, a software expert hailing from Austin, TX; Brendan Grady, a software expert normally based in Westford, MA; Shinichi Nakashio, an IBM business consultant from Tokyo, Japan; Kelly Tinsley, an IBM business consultant from Southfield, MI; and Gary Zeien, a software expert from Minneapolis, MN.


"The City is ready to step up to the challenge of working smarter to better serve our citizens," said Mayor Parker. "We are very excited to welcome IBM's team of experts and ready to receive their guidance and advice as we collaborate with key community partners to create an online system of information that is truly comprehensive and easy for residents to access."


The IBM team will specifically focus on and build upon the work of the Department of Neighborhoods. The department was established by Mayor Parker last year, structured as a “one-stop” for residents seeking assistance with neighborhood issues. Specifically, the IBM team will take a close look at how the City can better connect school-aged students to public services that strengthen families and schools. The team will conduct its work in consultation with City experts and key community partners. The project will culminate with the IBM team’s presentation of a “road map” setting forth short-term and long-term recommendations for the City’s implementation.


“Houston is a city that is rich with promise and accomplishment, and it is a distinct honor for our team to become honorary citizens, at least for three weeks,” said Beth Tracy, IBM's Corporate Affairs Manager for Texas and Oklahoma. “As our IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team settles in to begin their project, they look forward to meeting stakeholders who have so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to.”


IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge grant program, the company’s single-largest philanthropic effort, provides the expertise of top IBM employees to cities and counties. Issues addressed include health, transportation, economic development, education, finance, sustainability, public safety, and e-government. A number of cities have improved citizens’ quality of life because of IBM’s recommendations. For more information about the program, visit


To learn more about the City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods, visit