As noted by my colleague Eric Woods in a previous blog, despite being one of the most urbanized countries in the world (with around 90% of the population living in urban areas), Australian cities have played a relatively small and subdued role in the development of smart city concepts and project demonstrations. While Sydney and Melbourne have been promoting building energy reporting and energy efficiency and a number of cities have sustainability goals (e.g., the Sydney 2030 program), there has been little in the way of significant focus and innovation around the key issues of urban development and sustainability.
Federal Government Taking a Larger Role
However, the focus on smart cities in Australia is now beginning to intensify, as the federal government is taking the challenge of updating city infrastructure more seriously. 2017 appears poised to be a significant year for smart city development. The Australian government’s recently announced AUS $50 million ($35.8 million) Smart Cities and Suburbs Program will provide funding to support projects that use innovative technology-based approaches to improve livability and sustainability of cities, building on and supporting the country’s national Smart Cities Plan, which was launched in April 2016. Draft guidelines for the 4-year Smart Cities and Suburbs Program were recently released, and the first round of grant funding is expected to be opened in the first half of 2017.
The draft guidelines include four program priority areas and their key goals:
- Smart Infrastructure to improve safety, efficiency, reliability, and the delivery of essential services
- Smart Precincts to make community precincts more livable, productive, sustainable, and safe
- Smart Services to deliver citizen-centric local government services and improve community engagement
- Smart Planning to build adaptable and resilient cities through improved land use and strategic planning
These priority areas are indicative of where many global smart city projects and challenges are present today. If successful outcomes and innovative solutions can be achieved from the new plethora of smart city projects to come in Australia, the country could transform from its current follower position into a leadership role as part of the global pursuit of smart cities.