November 28, 2017
Tuesday 28th November, 2017
Sydney slow to invest in smart city infrastructures and planning – new report
Siloed state government and a fractured local government system risk undermining the potential of Sydney to become smart cities according to independent think tank the Committee for Sydney.
The #WeTheCity3 report identifies that Sydney is already a key financial and fin-tech hub for the Asia Pacific and is home to Australia’s highest concentration of technology start-ups and digital industries. More than any other Australian city, Sydney has access to the skills, creativity and talent needed to grow a healthy eco-system for data-driven services.
But unlike so many other global cities, Sydney does not have a smart city strategy. While cities like London, Boston, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Barcelona are all blazing ahead with a well-developed smart city agenda, Sydney is trailing the pack.
The coming together of ‘digital innovation’ and urban planning can either happen ‘to us’ or ‘with us’, but choosing to be the architects of Sydney’s Smart City future would deliver huge benefits for our community. The report argues for example, that by linking big data with a ‘citizen-led’ demand management tools, Sydney can reduce transport congestion and put downward pressure on household power bills.
To enable these opportunities however, the report argues that Governments will need to promote data accessibility by publishing data in open formats, harvesting new sources of data through Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, and fostering collaborative data partnerships across public and private agencies. This isn’t a revolutionary change. It’s what the leading ‘Smart Cities’ of the world are already doing.
Sydney now has a unique opportunity to become a “fast follower”, before pivoting to the front of the pack. The Greater Sydney Commission Draft Plans, the 2056 Transport Strategy, and the NSW Government’s record infrastructure investment program together provide an unprecedented opportunity to deploy sensors to accelerate the transformation of Sydney into a data enabled and responsive city. Metro transit, motorways, schools and hospitals can all have internet of Things (IoT) technologies embedded in their procurement requirements.
However, a common theme across the Committee for Sydney’s #WeTheCity series is that technology advances and digital disruption without institutional innovation can only ever make a very limited contribution to our cities. To truly capture the benefits of Smart City technologies, our city governance needs to be smart as well.
The report says that while “Sydney is now a vast data factory, exuding massive volumes of data exhaust daily, much of the data generated in Sydney is not very usable or accessible to our decision-makers”. It argues that where data is captured, too little of it is shared. More effort needs to go into sharing this data with industry, academia, and the broader community.
London’s Smart City Plan places Londoners at the core of innovation. It provides access to open data and leverages London’s research technology and creative talent to drive smarter infrastructure development. Stockholm’s smart city strategy is citizen-centric and coordinates the city’s high-tech sector to trial new innovate technologies. Amsterdam’s Smart City involves partnership between government, business, and research institutions. Each city has used these partnerships to deliver huge results. Amsterdam has found innovative, low-cost ways to drive down emissions. Boston has reduced ambulance response times and is massively reduced the presence of graffiti across the city.
#WeTheCity3 puts forward five governance reforms that the Committee for Sydney believes are necessary to activate Sydney’s ‘Smart City’ potential:
The NSW government should produce a Smart Sydney Strategy to complement the suite of strategic documents that plans and delivers infrastructure and services in the city. The document should be co-designed by the Greater Sydney Commission and the Department of Finance Services and Innovation and include the top five challenges for Sydney to be offered to the innovation community for resolution.
A new position of the Smart City Commissioner should be created and be the representative of the Department of Finance and Services on the Greater Sydney Commission. The Commissioner should work with the GSC to identify and prioritise challenges suited to smart city style solutions and broker funding agreements across government.
An Office of City Performance should be created to monitor and manage improvements in key city metrics. The office should be tasked with driving innovation, improving efficiency and increasing value for the millions of people who interact in our cities every day.
The Smart City Commissioner together with private sector, community sector and government stakeholders, should operate a Smart City i-Team that dissolves the barriers to innovation across all three sectors to improve Sydney’s capability to understand their problems, and how they can be solved.
The Office of City Performance in conjunction with NSW Treasury should pilot Smart City Impact Bonds, a financial instrument that offers commercial returns for economic or financial dividends that can’t currently be monetised by the market.
The report can be downloaded here.