Taking on Data: Enabling a citizen centric and data driven city

The organic, complex, and human nature of the city underpinned the discussions, debates and deliberations at the recent CITIES 4.0 Summit in Melbourne. Leading the charge for creating citizen centric cities, Jarmo Eskelinen, from UK Catapult highlighted the need for city leaders to focus on creating a better balance between the supply and demand side of the innovation market. This means that city leaders need to shift their focus away from the abundance of technology products available towards interrogating and identifying what their citizens need. Eskelinen also urged city leaders to become informed buyers in the competitive market and shift gears to faster decision making to accommodate the increasingly higher speed of change.

As the Summit progressed, the new language of the ever-evolving citizen city, Data, was likewise brought to the fore. Whether a regional city such as Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, and Albury or a metropolitan city the likes of Hamburg, Melbourne or Sydney, it has been data that has driven improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency of local government services. Using data, a smart city is one that has stopped operating a single service delivery model with central control rooms and started using multi organisations and complex city systems that constantly use data to determine, define and deliver improvements in citizens lives.

Using the language of data, cities and their leaders are also able to have a constant, live and two-way 'conversation' with all of their citizens. Examples of proactive and predicative data analysis highlighted the limitations inherent in current approaches to community engagement that are all too often dominated by the loud minority. Capturing, managing, sharing, and monitoring data also eliminates the gap between what citizens say they will do and what they actually do, imbedding smartness into city policy making.

Taking on data is by no means a simple task and Xavier Goldie from Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) gave the pointed reminders that “big data does not equal open data” and that “opening up more data is more important than producing more data”. Similarly, Thomas Jacob, Senate Chancellery from the City of Hamburg passed on four principles that have guided their smart city pilot projects on traffic, administration, e-culture and post management – act proactively, avoid multiple data input, automate and communicate digitally.

The benefits of a citizen-centric, data-driven city cannot be achieved without digital inclusion and equality. The philosophy that everyone deserves a connection, and everything will be connected has been the driving force for Clayton Banks, founder of Silicon Harlem. In this Upper Manhattan, NYC community of some 700,00 residents, Mr Banks is rolling out a broadband network, creating technology hubs and advancing STEM development in schools to enhance technology literacy. Leveraging the strong sense of one community, technology and innovation is being used to raise each and every citizen’s place in the local economy.

From energy, health, transport, safety, planning and security, Cities 4.0 provided plenty of expert insights on the capacity and benefits of technology and innovation. It left no doubt that cities must change from analogue to digital or risk their citizens being left behind.

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Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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