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Canada’s Windsor-Essex Region Collaborates With IBM to Improve Quality of Life for Citizens


WINDSOR, Ontario, - The region of Windsor-Essex, Ontario, Canada, today announced that it is using social business technology from IBM (NYSE: IBM) to significantly improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Through the region’s innovative use of IBM software and services, asthma attacks have been alleviated, a local automobile manufacturing plant diversified into the aerospace industry and 250 tons of waste materials from a road construction project was made into new housing for those who needed it the most.

The Windsor-Essex region of Canada is comprised of 393,000 citizens who live in the city of Windsor and the seven lower municipalities of the County of Essex. The region is 1,850 square kilometers, has temperate weather, a robust tourist industry and is in the middle of a significant economic diversification. Additionally, the region is transforming into a much greener city with the ongoing additions of new wind and solar energy sources around the region regularly.

In 2001, the region recognized a need to reduce duplication among the public sector organizations and improve the efficiency for the delivery of services. As part of the broader smart community initiatives, the region sought to create an information utility. This utility, much like the electric, water and road infrastructure systems already in place, was seen as essential to providing a competitive environment for Windsor-Essex to thrive in the knowledge-based economy. The region’s strategic investment in IBM products and services helped to make the area a more attractive place to do business.

Windsor-Essex region officials credit its use of IBM software and services for helping create the Windsor-Essex Smart Community Portal. The Windsor-Essex Smart Community Web infrastructure provides the region’s government and related organizations with the tools to help citizens with emergency and community services, transportation, health, utilities and life events such as getting married, having a baby or retiring. The technology behind this site is streamlining processes and enhancing services for its citizens and business owners.

“Windsor-Essex region has used IBM software and services to truly transform this area into a more intelligent, healthier, environmentally friendly and more prosperous community,” said Kristina Verner, research and development officer, Centre for Smart Community Innovation, University of Windsor.

For example, the Asthma Research Group of the city of Windsor and Essex County created a technology-based program for its asthma sufferers to help quickly link them with respiratory therapists. Parts of this region have a higher prevalence of asthma and higher rates of hospitalization from the disease than the national average. Attacks are more frequent than in other areas of Canada, and emergency health care can be costly. The program helped asthmatics find respiratory therapists in a few short weeks instead of the typical six months and also resulted in sick days at a large local automobile manufacturing plant being reduced by 55 percent. The IBM software was used to develop the asthma program quickly to meet the demand of its citizens and now serves as a model for other areas.

Windsor-Essex region created a program that led to the reuse and recycling of 250 tons of what would typically be viewed as construction waste, for use in new housing projects for those who need it the most. The initiative also created 30 new jobs. This ongoing project is happening during the largest road construction and border crossing project in the region’s history. Using IBM’s social software portfolio, Windsor-Essex is facilitating communication among members of local non-profit organizations, the road demolition and construction teams and government ministers.

The Windsor-Essex Smart Community Portal also helps drive visibility for the region with tourists. The more than 400 local businesses can now publicize and socialize their goods and services in more interactive ways leading to more business and unique diversification opportunities. For example, an automotive manufacturer was able to gain its first client in the aerospace industry as a result of this “business socialization.”

Windsor-Essex region uses IBM software to collaborate with key stakeholders including government leaders and employees, hospital, K-12 school and university boards of directors, as well as the citizens. The offerings used are WebSphere Portal and IBM Lotus Web Content Management software, IBM Lotus Quickr for file sharing and team room collaboration, IBM Lotus Sametime for instant messaging and unified communications, and IBM Lotus Domino for the fast development of applications that have a direct benefit on the citizens, such as the asthma program. The region also benefits from IBM Software Services for Lotus.

Windsor-Essex has been working with IBM to make its region a better place to live and work since 2004, and was named one of the “Smart 21 Communities” in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum in both 2010 and 2011. In January 2011, Windsor-Essex was further honoured as one of the Top seven Most Intelligent Communities in the world by the ICF. The award program salutes the accomplishments of communities in developing local prosperity.

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