Smarty Pants

Over the past few years the expression Smart Cities has seeped into our vocabulary, raising questions, revealing opportunities.

Initially the purview of those donning information technology and engineering degrees, the term now rolls off the tongues of city planners, economic development managers and elected officials with ease.

There are many a city and town that have aspired and inspired as they have adopted the latest piece of technology and in equal measure, there are many a city that have been daunted and confused as to what they should be adopting.

Working through the complexities and variabilities of what makes a city ‘smart’ is somewhat expected, and only exacerbated by the multiplicity of attempts to define the term. Wading through key questions such as where to start, who should lead, what methodology to use and who owns the solutions is no mean feat. Smart cities data strategy expert, Dr Neil Temperley, recently lead a Cities Leadership Institute Crew Webinar to share his unique insights into the world of smart cities.

Dr Temperley has been working closely with the Federal Government Cities Division to explore what the successes, challenges, partnerships and pivots Australian Cities have faced as well as perceptions and possibilities to support smart cities, regions and towns across Australia.

His work reinforces some common ground, namely that smart city success is predicated on recognising that:

  • context matters most, that each city starts their journey in a different place

  • the starting place is about solving a core city problem

  • citizens are at the centre of solving the problem, use the power of co-creation

  • prioritisation helps to distinguish the core problems from technology as an enabler

  • technology goes through a hype cycle so look long term

Dr Temperley goes further with his analysis focusing in on the life blood of smart cities, data.

Initially, cities took a general approach to data collection basing their actions and plans on ‘the more data - the better’. This paradigm has not only been financially expensive when it came to collection, storage and management but also cost cities in terms of citizen trust.

Whether it is data from traffic, engagement, energy or online use Temperley warns against collecting data for data’s sake. Put simply, where there a large data pools generated from serendipitous sources the citizen can be disconnected from the outcome. Here the citizen become disempowered and cannot make a trade off from what they are giving up versus what they are gaining.

Instead there must be a direct link between the data being collected and the purpose in which it will be used, and further this connection needs to be transparent to the public.

As the language and lessons of smart cities deepens so too does the need for citizen participation. After all citizens are the ones who wear the consequences and therefore should wear the smarty pants.

Do you have something to add? Share your Smart Cities experience here

Katherine O’Regan,

Executive Director, Cities Leadership Institute

#smartcities #technology

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