May 23, 2013—Washington DC: Just last month, six IBM executives from five countries arrived in Valparaiso, Chile, to begin work on an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. While based in Valparaiso, the team assessed current conditions and recommended a long-term strategy to increase the safety and efficiency of the transportation system in Gran Valparaiso.
Once known as “The Jewel of the Pacific,” Valparaíso was home to the region’s most bustling seaport, which in the second half of the 19th Century was a major stopping point for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, however, the port lost much of its traffic and the area struggled economically.
Today, Gran Valparaíso—a collection of six autonomous municipalities that includes Valparaíso, Vina del Mar, Con Con, Villa Alemania, Placilla and Quilpué—is experiencing an economic resurgence due in part to its vibrant culture, prestigious universities and growing port services. With Gran Valparaíso’s population now approaching one million, a new challenge has emerged: to better connect its communities with an effective transportation system.
The current transportation system in Gran Valparaiso is a disparate network of private sector transport providers offering Metro rail service, shared taxi service, as well as city-to-city bus service. These are each covered by a variety of contracts and other funding mechanisms, with different requirements for operations. On top of this complicated network, each community is represented by their own autonomous municipality. Put all these factors together and the “Challenge” element of the project rapidly comes to light. The competing services present many obstacles for Gran Valparaíso to overcome in order to develop an effective “Smart” transportation system; however, these intricate problems are exactly what the Smarter Cities Challenge teams are designed to address.
The six IBM executives—from the US, China, France, Germany, and Spain/ the UK—quickly got to work meeting with over 25 organizations, companies, and government agencies working on issues related to transportation in Gran Valparaiso.
Janice Salchert, IBM USA, explains the team’s suitability for the project on their blog:
We have been asked to take a very complicated problem statement and find a solution that blends multiple viewpoints. Not only are our views different because of our unique personal perspectives but also because of the places we come from and the influences those locations have on the way we view the world. From France to Germany, Spain, China and the United States, we all view the world just a little bit differently, which not only forces each of us to think a little more broadly but also gives us a broader base from which to formulate a solution.
At the conclusion of its research, the team found that by conducting on-going data collection, the local government could better address safety issues in real-time. In addition, the team recommended that the local government remove some of the bureaucratic red-tape to help government agencies implement transportation initiatives. While there is no easy fix for improving transportation, the Ministry of Transportation now has the tools it needs for a long-term strategic approach to develop a safer, more comprehensive transportation system in Gran Valparaíso.
Check out photos from their trip here.
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