Even in Durham, N.C., a city with low unemployment and an anchor of North Carolina's technology-rich Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle, the problem of poverty and "disconnected youth" weighs on the city's economy. Mayor William V. Bell (inset photo) said 4,500 to 6,000 city youth from age of 14 to 25 are disconnected from schools and paths to employment. It's estimated that high school dropouts experience three times the poverty rate of those who have attended even one year of college, according to Bell. The long-term cost to the city is lower tax rolls and higher costs for policing.
Durham won a Smart Cities Challenge Grant in 2011 to study ways to keep youth in school or to go back to school to become positive, contributing members of the community. "If we can reconnect even 3,000 of these youth, we could save the city as much as $42 million per year," Bell said at the November 15 Smarter Cities Challenge Summit.
In a March public report, IBM's Challenge Grant team recommended a comprehensive service delivery model designed to coordinate the fragmented services of multiple city agencies. Recommended technologies included a case-management system with early warning alerts to flag youth in need of preventative or recovery actions. IBM also recommended a digital service-provider catalog with workflows to manage client referrals and handoffs from agency to agency. Bell said Durham is now in the first phase of a four-phase, three-year implementation project on the recommendations.