As the frontline to the community, local governments have been directly impacted by the shift to a world where there is an abundance of highly accessible information.
Most people in a community now have the capacity to amplify their views through networks across multiple online channels.
In this linked in and logged on world, citizens are demanding to be more involved in decision making. It is also harder to correct mis information, listen to every voice and discern which voices matter and engage all sections of the community across age, income, gender and culture.
Technology and innovation have democratised information and voice, creating real and significant changes and challenges for local government. Technology and innovation can however provide a solution. A solution where the collection, management and use of data can really assist Councils to understand, engage and build relationship with their citizens.
By collecting and analysing data, Councils can get real time information not only about what the people say they want and will do but actually what they are doing.
The loud voices reverberating in the echo chambers of social media can be filtered and balanced with real data on the number, frequency and duration associated with what people are using or what service they need, who is walking on street, parking in locations or driving on specific roads.
Data can enable predictive patterns to be created so that services can be more personalised, assets and capital can be diverted to areas of higher need and the root causes of issues to understood and then addressed. Being smart with data means that urban leaders can focus more on governing for the whole community rather than responding and representing the pockets of the community.
In this light, the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher and the University of Sydney have announced a project that provides real-time local data on attitudes towards urban development to respective local governments is a valuable initiative.
The tools developed by University of Sydney's Smart Urbanism Lab in partnership with Telstra and KPMG will be used to increase community involvement in the planning and evaluation of major projects in the cities of Logan in Queensland and Canada Bay in Sydney.
In Canada Bay, the project will focus on feedback around the transformation of Parramatta Road and inform the Five Dock revelation. In Logan City, it will examine feedback around the master planning for Cronulla Park and the Yarrabilba community development.
The plan is that this digital platform will then be able to be enable local governments across the country capture, visualise and analyse conversations on social media to augment existing planning and consultation processes.
To improve the liveability, the productivity and sustainability of cities and towns across Australia, locals must be able to have a say on decision-making. Data is a powerful tool to enable and leverage democratisation of voice.
Executive Director - Cities Leadership Institute