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Houston advances civic innovation with new smart city initiative

Houston has expanded its alliance with Microsoft in an effort to enhance the city’s economic development and recovery via the deployment of various smart city initiatives.

This expansion builds on a previous alliance between Microsoft and the city of Houston, in May 2018, which involved the deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Accelerate, Microsoft’s new program, aims to ensure that economic recovery is addressed through upskilling some of the city’s underserved communities as well as re-skilling Americans who were directly impacted by the repercussions of COVID-19.

In collaboration with several other corporate partners, K-12 school systems and higher education providers, Microsoft aims to address the equity gap across the community by devising and deploying a holistic plan for professional support and development. This includes transitioning members of the workforce, students, local veterans, and K-16 education providers.

Workforce members and veterans will be offered workshops for digital literacy, development training via LinkedIn Learning and empowerment programs to better equip them for opportunities involving emerging technologies.

As for K016 education providers, Microsoft and its partners plan to offer digital literacy and modern workplace training programs which primarily focus on digital skills for educators.

Students on the other hand, will be offered the Microsoft Imagine Academy Learning Paths some of which will include initiatives such as LinkedIn workshops and DigiCamps. This will ensure that young people are brought together and skilled enough to better equip them to eventually join the workforce and plan ahead.

Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, said, “More than two years ago, I announced our first transformative alliance with Microsoft- the first of its kind in the United States. Today, I am pleased to say we are taking another leap towards strengthening Houston’s global standing as a center for innovation and technology.”

Kate Johnson, president of Microsoft US, stated, “Microsoft launched the Accelerate program at a time when closing the digital divide has never been more important. We’re thrilled to be joining Mayor Turner and an impressive group of partners in this effort to expand access to in-demand digital skills- and close digital skills gaps widened by COVID-19 through Accelerate: Houston.”

Jesse Bounds, innovation director for the city, said that Houston’s initial alliance with Microsoft “created the foundation for Houston to grow as a smart city.”

He added, “It brought start-up innovation to city challenges through The Ion Smart City Accelerator, proved out cases for the use of IoT and AI to make our city safer and more resilient, and provided equitable access to the technology through digital literacy, upskilling programs and Wi-Fi on public transit.”

“This expansion will continue to build upon this foundation the skills, processes and technologies needed to drive future growth and equitable prosperity in the city and position Houston to be a shining example to others across the globe,” continued Bounds.