Syracuse, N.Y., has made no secret of its ambitions to be taken seriously as a smart city, with the Central New York burg focused on what Mayor Ben Walsh has called a “Syracuse Surge” of economic and technological development. Now, the city has a powerful new ally in its quest: Microsoft.
Last month, Microsoft chose Syracuse to be home to its first Smart Cities technology hub in the Northeast and the third in the United States. The siting of the tech hub is part of a partnership between Microsoft, the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County and Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (also known as the iSchool). The parties formally signed off on the deal on Nov. 12, according to a press release from the iSchool.
The goal is to spur progress for Syracuse and to support the research and development of artificial intelligence technology “to grow long-term opportunities for residents and place Syracuse on the leading edge of emerging technologies,” according to a Microsoft release.
“For this new era of digital transformation to benefit us all, we need to create strong ties across government, academic institutions, and industry in support of a common vision of a digital future,” Jennifer Byrne, Microsoft US CTO, said in a statement. “The Syracuse Digital Alliance represents an opportunity for us to formalize a multi-stakeholder collaboration that will use artificial intelligence in responsible and trustworthy ways in order to create a smarter city and a more accessible environment for the acquisition of digital skills.”
Syracuse, Microsoft Plan Economic and Technical Development
Under the partnership, Microsoft will create a tech hub location somewhere on the south end of downtown in the footprint of the Southside Campus for the New Economy, which is geared toward early-stage start-ups.
The company will also partner with education providers and community organizations on digital literacy and workforce training, including the DigiCampz and DigiGirlz programs, which are targeted at minorities and women in technology.
The software giant also plans to sponsor public events, including an “Innovation Summit” before June 30, 2020, to bring together “national and local expertise to envision a bold future for Syracuse.”
Another key element of the plan is for Microsoft to “support corporate digital transformation efforts for local businesses with technical training and access to subject matter experts and leading practices to help grow local industries.”
Microsoft will also help develop a digital ethics policy and an AI strategy for the city “to ensure responsible deployment of new technologies.”
The Syracuse Common Council, the legislative branch of city government, recently approved a memorandum of understanding outlining goals and activities the collaborators plan to explore and undertake.
According to Syracuse.com, the agreement states that “the hub will be a resource for entrepreneurs and start-up companies, providing consulting services, education and training on burgeoning technology like 5G, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.”