I’m back with another bonus episode of the podcast that brings together multiple guests answers to the question “where to next with Smart Cities and Communities?” As it’s ASCA August/to round out ASCA August, this time I’m sharing with you the answers from our guests this month.
You’ll hear from Emily Royall from Episode 122, Matt Schultz from Episode 123, Sean Audain from Episode 124 and Marissa Racolamera from Episode 125.
There are a couple of main themes in this episode. You’ll hear these guests talk about being community driven and taking the obligations of government towards their constituents very seriously, as well as issues of scalability and questions around ethics and social licence when it comes to emerging technology.
All the guests agree that we need to be engaging with these wicked problems and asking the hard-to-answer questions now, so that we can create a future that is more liveable for all in our communities going forwards.
This episode was brought to you by the Australian Smart Communities Association, and as always I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.
In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a really interesting chat with Marissa Racomelara, the Director for Transformation and Change at Georges River Council, and Board Secretary of the Australian Smart Communities Association. We talk about how Marissa’s background in criminology and designing spaces to prevent crime really sparked her interest in Smart Cities and Communities, and why she believes they’re so important. Marissa shares with us how she sees Australia embracing Smart concepts, as well as the necessary balance between professionals guiding Smart processes and intentional community engagement or feedback. Marissa then tells us about the Smart City projects she’s working on at George’s River Council and the work we’re doing at ASCA. We finish our conversation discussing the emerging trends of having a common purpose when collaborating, and focusing on the ‘why’ and real problem solving in Smart Communities rather than only thinking about the new shiny tech. This episode is brought to you by the Australian Smart Communities Association. As always I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.
What we cover in this episode:
Marissa’s background in criminology and how that shaped her passion for designing spaces
How emerging technologies being used in built and natural environment design sparked Marissa’s interest in Smart Cities and Communities
What a Smart City and Community is and why Marissa believes it’s so important
The necessary balance between professionals guiding the Smart processes, and intentional community engagement and feedback
How Marissa sees Australia embracing the Smart concepts
The need to give tools to local government so they can better engage with and gather the knowledge of Smart citizens
The projects Marissa is working on at George’s River Council in making public space more productive
About the work that ASCA does in supporting organisations and local governments to build Smart Communities
The importance of assessing the impacts of technology and facilitating trust with diverse groups of community decision makers and stakeholders
Bridging the gap between what can actually be achieved and the communities’ expectations
Why we need a common purpose when it comes to integrating across disciplines, industries, government and academia
The emerging trends of focusing on the ‘why’ and real problem solving in Smart Communities rather than only thinking about the new shiny tech
The power of breaking down silos and bringing people on the Smart Community journey
“My core passion is really about using multiple tools to help organisations better reach their goals, specifically in the design of spaces.”
“The way a space works can really benefit so many aspects of somebody’s life, the interaction of the built and natural environments being vital to the health of an individual and the community. By using emerging technologies we can help to build those places in the best way possible.”
“I don’t think most people want a Smart City per se, they want a great community with or without technology…I believe the Smart City concept is important as a methodology rather than an outcome.”
“I think it comes down to how we definite the world Smart. I think we can do Smart policy and Smart decision making, and it doesn’t have to be about the technology, although often the technology can give us additional information to consider.”
“I think local government’s work is probably one of the most important aspects of [Smart Cities]. Whilst there might be legislative and policy decision at other levels of government and certainly they have a role to play in funding allocation, local government is the group on the ground actually making a real difference, really testing different technologies, different ways of working and seeing what the outcomes are for real people in the real world.
“The way [local government] engage our communities and opening
up their sphere of knowledge to include things that may not even exist yet is important, but we’re the people on the ground who understand how [the community lives] and therefore we’re best placed to make those transitions easier and smoother and increase their liveability.”
“I think one of the things we get hung up on in Smart Cities is the data, using the data and data-driven decision making. But I truly believe that data is just one lens through we we can look at things, and we really need to combine multiple lenses to really understand the story of what’s happening and why it’s happening…to see things through all those different lenses you need things to experience that in different ways sitting around the table.”
“I think [the emerging trend is] that we’re beginning to see a real shift towards examining the WHY. Why do we want this shiny new technology? Why is this data being collected? Why are people making these decisions that result in a certain outcome?”
In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a great chat with Sean Audain, the City Innovation Lead at Wellington City Council in New Zealand. Sean and I discuss the way the public service role of government shapes how decisions are made, and that this comes with both opportunities and challenges for the government that can differ significantly from the responsibilities and operations of private companies. Sean then tells us how he sees New Zealand embracing Smart concepts, and a bit about the digital twin projects that he is working on in Wellington. We talk about the benefits of using digital twin technology and how it’s being used to build a new call centre and a new library. We finish our conversation discussing the need for indigenous voices in the Smart Cities discourse and the ways different worldviews shape our Smart Communities. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.
What we cover in this episode:
Sean’s background in Urban Planning and his love for public service
How commuting on trains sparked Sean’s interest in Smart Cities
Why cities should strive for an informed democracy not just data-driven decision making
The opportunities and challenges of cities lasting longer than companies and having power over their citizens
Why Sean believes Smart Cities and Communities are important
A Wellington example called BlindsSquare, which provides city commentary for the visually impaired
How Sean sees New Zealand embracing Smart concepts
Wellington’s Digital Twin projects that Sean is working on
How digital twins work and the benefits of using this technology
Using data to better integrate across disciplines and industries
The positive results Wellington has seen from making data available to the public
The emerging trend of changing career development patters due to AI
The need for indigenous voices in our Smart Cities discourse
The role of government in market shaping
“I often think we really focus on the smart and forget about the city. It’s not about what tech can do for the city. In many ways it’s about what the city can do for tech.”
“People forget cities have markets, markets don’t have cities. And there are a whole bunch of people in a city that are performing functions that actually have very little to do with the economic life in the city.”
“When we start really thinking about cities in a technological term, there’s sort of a risk we will mechanize them. We’re not after a data driven decision making process, what we’re after is an informed democracy. They sound very similar, but they’re quite different in the way they work.”
“How do we also account for the fact we can do things to people? One of the big things that separates government from private enterprise is ultimately a government has a degree of power over its citizens, and there’s a certain involuntary factor to it. And that means that you’re operating in a way that’s got a duty of care, you’ve got a responsibility.”
by putting commissioners into a three dimensional environment, with a new building proposal, we can shorten the amount of time they need to consider it by that half, simply because we’re removing the obstruction. It’s a lot easier if you don’t have to create a building plan or shadow diagram. So we know that we can save some money, just not so short, but how much
“We were able to make the data open and make it available to our community so they can build stuff for themselves, which really does change the engagement dynamic. Instead of asking their opinion on things, they show us what we should do, which is a lot more productive.”
“The jobs which tend to be automated are either the very dirty or the very boring. And the way we train a lot of junior professionals, planners, accountants, is by getting them to do boring, repetitious tasks, which are now being automated. And so you’re seeing a change in the career patterns in the city.”
“And often a worldview will inform what data you collect, and then what you do with it once you’ve collected it. And unless we account for those [indigenous] worldviews and give them a system to proactively develop the capacity, there is a risk of a second wave of colonization occurring—this time Silicon Valley as opposed to Britain.”
Connect with Sean via LinkedIn or on Twitter @sean_audain
In this episode I had a great conversation with Matt Schultz, City Digital Officer at Ipswich City Council in Queensland and the National President of the Australia Smart Communities Association. Matt and I cover his wide and varied career in technology and local government, and why Matt is so passionate about helping people. We also discuss how important and complex the role of local government actually is, and why Smart Communities are so important.
Matt tells us how he sees Australia embracing Smart concepts, as well as the many interesting projects Ipswich City Council is working on to make it an open and interoperable city moving forwards. Matt then explains how ASCA came to be, from its beginnings in 2009 as the Broadband Today Alliance, and how it developed into what it is today, helping with connecting and integrating across different disciplines and industries in Australia today. We finish our chat discussing the emerging trends of 5G, AI, ML, IOT and blockchain, and the opportunity that lies in the fusion of all of these technologies going forwards.
This episode is brought to you by the Australia Smart Communities Association. As always I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.
What we cover in this episode:
Matt’s wide and varied career in technology and local government
Why Matt believes Smart Communities are so important and why he is so passionate about helping people
The promise and opportunity of Smart Communities
The important and complex roles of local government and how they need to change to meet community needs and customer expectations
How Matt sees Australia currently embracing the Smart Community space
The projects Matt is working on as part of his role at Ipswich City Council to make it an open and interoperable city
How ASCA came to be, including Matt’s role as co-founder and National President
The emerging trends of 5G, AI, ML, IOT and blockchain, and the opportunity that lies in the fusion of all these technologies going forwards
“[My passion is] really just about helping people. That’s really why I’ve stayed working in government for as long as I have.”
“I know the world has changed and will continue to change. The changes that we have are accelerating with the introduction of new technologies, those technologies and the connectivity that powers that is becoming more pervasive and ubiquitous. THe services that people are obtaining are becoming more easy to understand and connect with. People have access to much more information than they’ve had in the past. And that is changing the way that governments need to work.”
“Councils are not in competition with [the private sector] but when people interact with our council digitally they’re actually comparing us to the way that they interact with companies like Amazon, Apple and Facebook, in terms of how easily they’re able to obtain services and information. And they are comparing the way councils provide that information [or service].”
“We’ve made some good steps over recent years but we really need to keep the momentum going moving forward to try and keep up with what’s happening [worldwide].
“I think a lot of people are still trying to understand what is the return on investment [of Smart Communities]. Some people are trying to look for quick wins. It’s going to be difficult to obtain big ROIs for quick wins because this is such a long term transition.”
“ASCA is the only demand-side industry association working on development of Smart Cities or Smart Communities…We’re definitely trying to be an advocate, be a source of information, a source of value, and in time as we strengthen our capabilities we’ll do more in terms of policy influencing and things like that.”
“This [Smart Community] stuff isn’t easy. If this stuff was easy to implement and roll out and inter-operate the way we want and need it to, then there’d be a lot more of it already rolled out.”
In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a really fascinating discussion with Emily Royall, the Smart City Coordinator of the City of San Antonio, Texas. Emily tells us about her passion for advancing equity in Smart Cities, and the Community Driven Smart City model that San Antonio is pursuing. We discuss the digital divide in San Antonio and the equity questions municipalities need to think about when being marketed to by the companies mediating Smart City data. Emily then tells us about a number of really interesting and innovative projects the City of San Antonio is working on, including how they’ve partnered with kids in the local CoderDojo coding program to get viable prototypes for their community. Emily and I finish our conversation discussing her thoughts on integrating across disciplines and the jobs of the future, as well as the emerging trends of digital justice and digital equity. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.
What we cover in this episode:
Emily’s varied background in neuroscience and urban systems, and her passion for advancing equity in Smart Cities
What sparked Emily’s interest in the Smart City and Community concept
The Community Driven Smart City or Smart City 3.0 Model that San Antonio, Texas is pursuing
The digital divide facing San Antonio and the equity questions they’re asking about Smart City data
The questions municipalities need to think about when being marketed to by the private companies who are mediating the Smart City data, and how San Antonio frames their engagement with the private sector
How Emily sees America currently embracing Smart concepts
The projects Emily and San Antonio are working on right now, including CivTechSA, Smart SA partnerships, the Digital Divide Assessment and a Data Governance Strategy and Communications Plan
The partnership between CoderDojo and the Parks and Recreation Department that sees local kids designing apps for the City of San Antonio
Using participatory art projects to teach people about data
Emily’s thoughts on integrating across disciplines and the jobs of the future
The emerging trends of digital justice and digital equity
“In this world of emerging technology that is increasingly being integrated in public space, how do we make sure that citizens are empowered by that technology?”
“When we talk about this Smart City 3.0 model, this concept of Community Driven Smart Cities [we need to ask] if we’re going to plug and play all this cool technology in public spaces, where are we creating gaps by doing that?”
“We can’t just assume that the kinds of data feeds that we get from Smart City technologies are objective or comprehensive or representative of our community. So we have to ask those equity questions on the back end too.”
“[American] local city governments are very embracing of this concept because we are so close to our citizens and we are delivering those last mile services directly to our citizens. I think the struggle in America is at the Federal and State level, we don’t have a lot of regulatory frameworks for emerging technology.”
“We have children coding apps that actually have utility for some of our city departments…I think that’s really special to see in a city, when a municipal government can actually get viable prototypes from their community for technology that they can’t build in house or they don’t want to get from the private sector.”
“Kids can be super engaged in building technology that changes how we interact with public space in the smart city.”
“I really think it starts with education…in this era where so many jobs are potentially threatened by AI, the question became how do we educate our kids? The answer became we focus on creativity and the things that humans will always be able to do.”
“I feel really strongly that the workforce of the future is going to be less siloed because the people that emerge from our education system are going to focus less on trades and skills that can later be co-opted by a machine and more on diversity of experience and awareness.”
“How is technology shaping not just how our culture evolves but how we as individuals perceive our environment and each other? Integrating the cultural development of a city with how interactions are mediated by technology is an emerging discussion.”
“The technology is not independent of us, we create it. So it’s a great time for us to be asking those hard questions about who we are as the harbingers of technological development.”
This is a quick episode to introduce our ASCA August special here on the Smart Community Podcast.
What is ASCA?
ASCA is the Australia Smart Communities Association of which Zoe is a volunteer board member.
In August, all episodes of the Smart Community Podcast will be brought to you by the Australian Smart Communities Association with a focus on the needs of ASCA members. So we’re bringing you conversations, stories and learnings from local government agencies around the world, as well as from the board members.