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Celebration of Service

Better data for better urban living

Study hones in on where we live and its impact on our well-being

Data, and the insights it can reveal, are the basis of a Smarter Planet. Ottawa, Canada’s capital and one of the largest cities in the country, has been the focus of a pioneering project taking an in-depth look at how we live and where we live, with intelligence from the data that could improve the quality of life for its citizens.

The United Way’s Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS), a partnership between United Way Ottawa and five other organizations, has gathered and compiled one of the world’s most comprehensive databases which details how where a person lives impacts their health and well-being. In July 2011, IBM awarded a Centennial Grant to United Way Ottawa to take ONS to the next level.

“A person’s capacity to actualize their dreams depends first on meeting their basic needs but also on growing capacity for good health, a sense of well-being, cultural competence and a rewarding connection with their community,” says Karen Williams, IBM Vice President of Business Analytics Customer Success and Support, who applied for the grant on behalf of United Way Ottawa.

The ONS has collected and analyzed 146 indicators of health and well-being, creating 91 neighborhood profiles throughout the city that allow policy developers, program planners, community organizers, service providers and other decision makers to better understand those neighborhoods.

One ONS partner agency, Champlain Local Health Integration Network, has used the database to identify communities most susceptible to influenza, enabling the most vulnerable communities to receive access to immunization programs first. ONS also was used to identify neighborhoods that most lacked recreational programming investments so funds could be appropriated to build ice rinks in those areas. ONS will track the long-term impact of those investments.

A scalable model for other cities

To reach its full potential, ONS needs to expand and update its data sources, perform more analytics, and share its knowledge with high-need communities in Ottawa and its methodology with other cities.

The IBM Centennial Grant will enable consulting services for documenting and packaging the project so it can be shared, purchasing statistics tabulations, translation of all content, and building the capacity of the ONS research team. The project is being executed to ensure the model will be completely scalable, transportable and sustainable across the not-for-profit sector.

“Volunteers from across IBM are using their expertise collaborating with the ONS to bring together business insight, advanced research, technology and marketing expertise to help ONS better service its community in a rapidly changing environment,” says Karen. “We have great people who are now all engaged in a common goal that has them energized and excited about its impact.”

The ONS project complements IBM’s City Forward initiative, a free, Web-based platform that enables people such as city officials, researchers and interested citizens to view and interact with city data, and gain insight into issues that affect metropolitan areas worldwide.

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.