Episode Archive

SCP E83 Spatial Literacy and Understanding Data, with Jack Barton

In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a great chat with architect Jack Barton. Jack is an Associate at SGS Economics and Planning, and also Manager of Stakeholder Engagement and Business Development for the GeoSpatial Research Innovation and Development Lab at the University of NSW. He also runs his private practice JBDD. Jack and I have a great discussion about how his upbringing in a regional area, his interest in cities, and his love of digital technology all combined to spark his interest in the Smart space. We talk about why Smart Cities is a good buzz word, and the reasons connections and communication are important in Smart Communities. Jack shares his view on how Australia is embracing Smart concepts, and why long term vision is important, especially during this age of experimental pilot programs. We cover Smart City Standards and what they mean for people working in the space; the importance of digital and spatial literacy, and the need for more people to properly understand data so that they can use is effectively. We discuss how open data can facilitate better integration across disciplines, governments and industry, and finish our conversation on the emerging trends of boring and somewhat old-fashioned things like protocols, accountability, transparency, governance and longevity. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

You can now support the Smart Community Podcast via Patreon, at patreon.com/smartcommpod

If you become a Patron, you’ll get a special episode each month exclusive to supporters. If you would like to feature on the podcast, you can also head to Patreon where you can sponsor an episode. There are options for a full featured episode or adding a promo for your company or an event coming up, with once off and monthly options available. Thanks so much for your support for the podcast. It is my dream for the podcast to be self-sustaining so it can continue to be produced no matter the circumstances.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Jack’s background in architecture and his upbringing in regional NSW
  • What sparked his interest in the Smart space
  • Why buzz words can be useful and the reasons communication is important in the Smart community
  • How Australia is embracing the Smart City concept
  • The need for more long term vision instead of just short term experiments and pilot programs
  • Smart City Standards and why we need them
  • The importance of digital, spatial and data literacy 
  • How open data can facilitate integration and collaboration, and break down silos
  • The emerging trends of boring and somewhat old-fashioned things like protocols, accountability, transparency, governance and longevity


“You really need to have a good sense of ethics and not to use technology in a surreptitious kind of way that might be interpreted as surveillance or spying, it has to be something that empowers the communities, that makes places better and can help people work together as a community.”

“Digital technologies really are these pragmatic tools that can help us make life easier and make life better, and importantly can also look at the more disadvantaged areas of cities and communities and be able to address that. At least, sort of make it more visible and rally some energy around helping solve those wicked problems.”

“It’s very important to have evidence-based approaches to things where we’re sharing the objective data that’s scientifically rigorous and then using that to base the discussions on.”

“Experimentation is great, but I’ve seen a few initiatives come and go in my time and I think it does need to be designed with a more long term view and not so much tied to funding cycles. Ideally we want to be looking at the 10 – 100 year window into the future, especially with the challenges that we’re facing right now.”

“Smart Cities is a buzz word but it’s a good buzz word; it can corral people and align people and…it is a little package that can relay a lot of information.”

“[Open Data] is the sort of thing that does save lives. We need to have these systems in place [to share data] for when there are inevitable emergencies and disasters and things. There’s a good driving motivation for that beyond the dollar value of these initiatives.”

“Showing good examples, helping increase spatial literacy too, you can’t do it enough. Show [people what mesh blocks are and how the ABS works and how you can read and write data.

There’s still a fear of opening up data for fear of what might happen, for what you might expose yourself to. As soon as you can de-identify the data, it opens up a lot of opportunities that wouldn’t have been there before and haven’t been there historically because we’ve been hoarding data as silos.”

“You can define privacy as your ability to control your level of publicity, and so we’ve got to be aware [of that] in the way that we can keep what has to be secure, secure, because that is an issue that can have lives at stake, but then to be able to access the data rapidly and in an authorised way is another thing that we’re looking at…when you’ve got important things that could go wrong, you don’t want the data to be the weakest link.”

“Never before have we had this amazing, cumulative, digitised knowledge bank as a species so it really is in our hands to do something with it. It’s a good way to take us into the future, and there’s a lot of work in that for many people, a lot of stakeholders.”


Connect with Jack via Twitter @jbdd, on LinkedIn or visit the website jbdd.com

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

Podcast Production by Perk Digital


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Episode Archive


Want to be a guest?

Would you like to be a guest on The Smart Community Podcast? 
Get in touch and send me your pitch.