Episode Archive

SCP E172 Sharing real stories and facilitating Smart Community conversations, with Charlie Hamer

In this episode I have a fascinating chat with Charlie Hamer, the CoFounder of Public Sector Network. Charlie tells us about his background in computer science, environment and events, and how he ended up starting the Public Sector Nector community platform. He has a passion for technology and the environment, and for facilitating connections so he tells us about why he started PSN and the reasons they expanded from Australia to the US, Canada, New Zealand and soon the UK as well. Charlie tells us what sparked his interest in the Smart Community space, and we discuss what the terms Smart City and Intelligent Community mean, as well as how the movement has been maturing over the last few years. We cover how Charlie sees Australia embracing Smart concepts, and what he’s seen in Canada as a result of the Smart City Challenge that was run by the Canadian government there. We discuss how to balance funding and marketing with the real substance of Smart Community projects, and the importance and power of sharing real stories and giving a voice to smaller, regional projects. We finish our chat discussing the emerging trends of privacy, data security and the waning trust in government, which is even more relevant now than when we recorded this a few months ago. 

Charlie’s episode was the last in my bank of interviews recorded before the pandemic began really impacting the world, so in the weeks to come, we’ll start sharing a mix of quote unquote “normal” episodes where I ask guests all the usual questions, the audios from some of the previous guest Covid-19 update interviews I’ve been doing on YouTube – By the way, remember to head on over to our YouTube channel to catch up with what previous guests like Ryan McManus, Debbie Reynolds, Sally Illingworth, Jonathan Reichental, Rachel Smith and more have been getting up to in the last few months. And of course like Charlie and I discussed in this episode, if you have a real story to share about a Smart Community project that’s making a difference, particularly if it’s a smaller project or from a regional or rural area, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch at hello@mysmart.community  As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this episode as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. 

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Charlie’s background in computer science and events
  • His passion for the environment and technology, and for facilitating connections between people
  • How the Public Sector Network community platform was founded
  • Why they expanded from Australia to US, Canada, NZ and soon to be UK
  • What sparked Charlie’s interest in the Smart Community space
  • What a Smart City or Community means and how it relates to the term Intelligent City or Community
  • The maturing of the Smart movement and the substance beneath the buzzwords
  • How Charlie sees Australia embracing Smart concepts
  • What he’s seen in Canada as a result of the Smart City Challenge run by the Canadian government 
  • The need to balance funding and marketing with the real substance of Smart Community projects 
  • The importance of sharing real stories about Smart Community projects and giving a voice to smaller, regional projects 
  • Some of the projects PSN was working on at the time this was recorded (December 2019)
  • The emerging trends of data privacy and security, and waning trust in government


“So much good work gets done in government, but often silos. So we thought when we created PSN, how can we create an organisation that can enable these people to connect, avoid the duplication of work, share ideas, collaborate and ultimately deliver better outcomes?”

“We saw there was an opportunity to build a community around what government do. Government is a non-compete industry, so to speak. They’re there to kind of share ideas and collaborate and we didn’t see there was a reason why government should be charged thousands of dollars to go listen to their colleagues speak. And we knew there was a much more affordable way to do this.”

 I touched on the US, Canada and New Zealand and then soon to be the UK, those forms of government are quite similar in lots of ways. But and so the challenges faced in these various different jurisdictions are very similar. So how can we connect these different people globally to share the ideas to avoid people duplicating the same stuff over and over again, as we know all too well, as I mentioned briefly, people work in silos within within government and how can we break down the silos

“For me, it’s a city that’s liveable, sustainable, inclusive, innovative, I’ve added a couple in about commutable and I think affordable, all these different terms…everyone gets kind of drawn to the technology element. And as we all know, when you talk to anyone within the space, everyone knows that technology is the final piece of the puzzle. But really, the people elements that are central and core to what is a Smart Community.”

“I think that often [the people side of Smart] can get overlooked. Especially from the early Smart Cities days, I think a lot of the movement got burnt a little bit by over investment in technology at the front end. I think people are now sort of just getting over that and realising, okay, it’s not really about that, we don’t have to go buy lots of really expensive technology to create a Smart Community.”

“Those projects make it more real for people as opposed to Smart Poles and Smart Lighting, which has it’s place. Of course, that is important. But it’s a small piece of the bigger puzzle because when you have these [community] projects, you can sell a vision more to the people, which ultimately [means] your stakeholders push these projects through in your local council.”

“Trust, privacy, data and cybersecurity: to truly move to a Smart Society, it needs addressing. If people can’t trust what their government is telling them and then trust them with their data, it seems that we’ve got a huge problem. The current political climate globally, with people’s trust in government waning, it’s a big thing that needs to be addressed.”


Matthew Schultz from ASCA (formerly National Broadband Alliance)

Public Sector Network Smart Mobility series 

Robert Bell CEO of Intelligent Communities Forum

Smart City Challenge in Canada

Winners of Smart City Challenge

KPMG Report on Smart Cities in Australia 

Privacy Matters Podcast, with Nicole Stephensen 


Connect with Charlie on LinkedIn or at charlie@publicsectornetwork.co

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community 

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube
The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital.


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