Walking along the foreshore of Newcastle harbour, the significant transformation the City has undergone over the past decade is starkly evident. The transformation of the waterfront and the walkability of the streets together with the integration of old and new architecture captures the mood of a city well on the way of its journey from an industrial to service-based city.
At the centre of this change is a city leveraging technology and innovation to realise their vision to be a smart liveable city. Various lenses overlay clusters of projects that see and shape the City as a personal service, a data commons, an IoT platform, and as a Living Lab. Partnerships and collaborations underpin the City wide approach to infuse and cultivate innovation as the way of doing things.
Newcastle University is a key partner and player who is building entrepreneurial confidence, capability and blurring traditional lines between business and creativity. In doing so, Newcastle University is forming human networks across the community and across the globe.
A coalition across Local, State and Federal governments, together with private sector participants, have enabled smart poles, sensors, cars, bikes and energy systems to be trialled and scaled across Newcastle. This is a City on the move.
Newcastle’s neighbour, the City of Lake Macquarie, has a contrasting smart city story. Only a short drive North, financial limitations have necessitated a focus on partnerships and collaborations to become an online government that connects and activates communities and invests in innovation and digital literacy.
These two city stories highlight that there is no ‘right thing’ when it comes to shaping a smart city, there is no set playbook. Instead there is a ‘right way’. A right way where urban leaders do what is ‘right’ for their community. Where being smart means understanding their community’s aspirations, identifying opportunities to leverage community ideas and capital, where leaders are prepared to take risks, learn from others and build partnerships. Where “technology is seen not the end game but the pathway to address common challenges” and where the city ecosystem has the capacity to build on itself.
When it comes to fostering a smart city, urban leaders have a critical role to drive innovation in the ‘right way’, to understand context, to create a city that is fit for purpose for their community.
Stay tuned for more smart city learnings as the delegation heads further north to investigate, interrogate and share knowledge with the City of Brisbane and Ipswich.
Executive Director - Cities Leadership Institute