Day 8. Austin - Broad rather than deep

Meeting with the City of Austin’s Chief Information Officer, Stephen Elkins and his team, it quickly became apparent that this is a city that is thinking broadly. There are some one hundred initiatives in their Smart Cities Strategic Roadmap across six Council outcome areas ensuring that technology is being leveraged to drive a government that works for its citizens and is inclusive.

City of Austin's Chief Information Officer Stephen Elkins and the Communications and Technology Management team with Australian delegates.

These projects are prioritised by an Open Government and Smart City Committee and then led by champions across the organisation. In this way the smart cities team serves like an orchestra conductor facilitating and enabling projects as diverse as an early warning system for floods, open health data, citizen engagement and employee training and placement. Elkins is a firm believer that success lies in the smart cities team being “owned by all departments” across the city administration and they must act “like Switzerland” when it comes to determining and prioritising projects.

This broad smart city governance model puts collaboration at its heart, collaboration with internal stakeholders and with external organisations such as Austin CityUP, a smart city consortium of companies, organisations, and individuals who work together on digital technologies, data collection, analytics, and modelling to enhance city life. This broad approach demands that individuals across the organisation are assessed, recognised and rewarded for collaboration. It also neatly aligns with the Six Inconvenient Truths about smart cities and helps the City manage the "Hype Cycle" that shows we tend to overestimate the effect of technology in the short run, and underestimate it in the long run.

The Hype Cycle shows that we tend to overestimate technology's effects in the short term and underestimate them in the long term.

Broad rather than deep is likewise the approach of the incubator, accelerator- cum-startup co-working space, Capital Factory. This full-service innovation firm is expanding its programs and members everyday offering multiple points of entry into their "family" from idea generation through to full investment. They pride themselves on the fact you never actually leave and that there is “no graduation point” once you join the Factor. It is this diversity that attracts investors to fund not only Capital Factory but the opportunities that it fosters.

Capital Factory, Austin

Experiencing first hand some of the augmented reality and virtual reality applications in Capital Factory it was easy to sense that this innovative approach to supporting, mentoring, and funding innovation could become a platform for competitors to adopt.

Nathaniel Bavinton, Smart City Coordinator, City of Newcastle testing out VR at Capital Factory.

We are looking forward to our final round of meetings and experiences of the International Exchange when tomorrow we hear from Austin City’s Chief Sustainability Officer and take a walk through the booming Seaholm EcoDistrict before we head north to the University of Texas, Austin.

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Level 23, 45 Clarence Street

Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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