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.

Listen here:

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.”


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My Smart Community

My Smart Community offers consulting and media services with a focus on making our communities more accessible, liveable and sustainable for all. We have a focus on Smart Mobility, Smart project management, Smart technology in regional communities, dealing with disruption and facilitating genuine collaboration. As well as podcast production, communication and media advisory and engagement, keynote speaking, moderating, master of ceremonies and workshop design and facilitation.

The Smart Community Podcast

The Smart Community Podcast is a hub where smart and exciting people from all around the world come to discuss all things Smart City, Smart Town, Smart Region - anything that makes a place more liveable. Together we can create our own Smart Communities.


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