Opinion | A smart city for all | Gordon Whitehead

ENGAGING BENEFITS: Widening the smart city conversation means seeking direction from all sections of the community. Photo: Simone De Peak

ENGAGING BENEFITS: Widening the smart city conversation means seeking direction from all sections of the community. Photo: Simone De Peak

For those of us who have championed the idea of transforming Newcastle into a smart city, it’s been a big year with the release of Newcastle City Council’s Smart City Strategy, and the announcement of  $18 million for the Hunter Innovation Project and the $15 million Smart Move Newcastle: Intelligent Mobility, Energy and Data Networks Project.

Yet, it’s important to remind ourselves of the reasons and benefits of building a smart city. Smart cities leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) to be more efficient in using resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improving service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint – all supporting innovation and a low-carbon economy. Cities around the world are expected to invest $41 trillion on Internet of Things technologies over the next 20 years, which is a massive opportunity for local companies. This new direction is already acting as a “honey pot”, attracting new innovative firms, big and small and young talented professionals to the region.

On the down-side, large-scale digitalisation is presenting a range of economic and societal implications raising serious questions about how the city manages the impact of digital transformation. These include factors such as changing customer expectations, growing digital divide and privacy and security issues.

These challenges need to be addressed by community, industry and government leaders to ensure we unlock the substantial benefits digitalisation offers society and industry. But cities are made up of complex social, gender, physical and technology structures that work together like a human body. So, to become a smarter city, we need to broaden the environment of collaboration including a more diverse range of stakeholders in the decision-making process. 

Gordon Whitehead is Society President of The Lunaticks Society