Episode Archive

SCP E265 Smart Places, Smart Strategies and Smart Initiatives, with Simon Hunter

Hi #smartcommunity friends! In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have a fabulous conversation with Simon Hunter, the Executive Director of Strategy and Innovation, at the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE). This group is leading the implementation of the NSW Smart Places Strategy to embed Smart Cities into the planning or urban and regional areas across NSW. We have a great talk about what New South Wales is up to in regards to Smart Communities and Smart Places Initiatives, and the exciting future ahead. 

In this episode, Simon tells us about his background in transport and infrastructure, mainly in State Government, and what a Smart Community is to him. Simon shares with us the importance of the term ‘Smart Places’ and its use when discussing this space, as well as how he got into this space and how he has driven this concept over time with DPIE and in his other roles. We talk about the polarising risks associated with data and privacy protection and how to balance them, before Simon tells us about the Smart Places Acceleration Program and what is involved, as well as the benefits realisation of the program. We then discuss the importance of efficiency and value of time and how that contributes to people’s quality of life, as well as the value that remote working and remote staff can bring to an organisation. We finish our chat with Simon telling us what is happening over the next few years with his work and what he is most excited about. Now this is the last episode for the year before we go into our Summer series, so as always, we hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it! 

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Simon’s background in transport and infrastructure, mainly in state government 
  • What a Smart Community is to Simon
  • The importance of using the term ‘Smart Places’ for Simon
  • How Simon got into the Smart Community/Smart Places space, and how he has driven the concept over time with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment 
  • How to balance the potential polarising risks associated with data privacy and protection
  • The Smart Places Acceleration Program, what type of initiatives are involved and how people can get involved
  • The importance of showing the benefits of the Smart Places Acceleration Program for a citizen customer service
  • The importance of efficiency, value of time and quality of life for people in Smart Communities 
  • How Simon’s worldview has changed post Covid 
  • The value that remote work and remote staff can bring to an organisation
  • What is happening over the next few years for Simon and his work and what he most excited about 


“For the last three years, I’ve kind of been on the smart journey, thinking about how technology can make the most of our infrastructure, our services, and that led to the very much the Smart Places, strategy, our action plan, and maybe building a team here in the New South Wales Department of Planning in industry and environment.”

“[Smart Communities] is a place where technology is used to help drive achieving the community’s hopes and dreams and aspirations. It’s a place where there’s no digital divide, where data is captured, collected, housed and made available to generate insights that help people, businesses, government and anyone else who needs to make decisions about a place to do that. It’s a place where you don’t see the technology because it’s so woven into the community.”

“I think it was important to connect [Smart Places] to the agenda of placemaking and of ‘place’ as something that people really believe in.”

“I think specificity of use and purpose is so important. Being able to say that we are only going to use the COVID Safe App Data to contact trace to protect people’s health and we’re not going to use it to sell it to people and say, you know this person’s interested in these five shops or these five cafes so you can market to them. That’s a real clear responsibility of government and that’s why people use their QR codes to log in.”

“We’ve had a really great response in the last two, three weeks since the [Customer Charter] has been released, of people signing up. And I think for us that tells a good story, that this is something that the people in the community want, whether they be vendors, whether they be government agencies, or councils.”

“The Smart Places acceleration programme is our chance to get some momentum going. It’s a $45 million reservation the New South Wales Government put aside under the digital restart fund. And it’s about bringing forward the take up of technology and the place based application of that technology. It’s really designed to create digital and data assets for New South Wales, that drive forward implementing the Smart Places strategy.”

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing people connecting with teams and just observing meetings and discussions that I’m not necessarily part of to help understand what makes people tick. I think that’s the [most] important thing, than actually seeing people. It’s [about] getting that connection and understanding what makes people tick, so that you can work most effectively together.”

“I think the challenge is who owns the assets, how we make sure the assets are commissioned, how we bring in the telcos and bring them into the place agenda. As we deliver it is all really important. I also think continuing to build and maintain that community, trust is at the core of it, and making sure we don’t miss the opportunity. We don’t know what perfect looks like I don’t think in a Smart City in a Smart Place. But we know what the fundamental good elements look like and we know what the outcomes we’re trying to achieve are.”

“I’ve built a really talented but small team. And probably the key thing about all of us is that I think we all have those open to learning mindsets, and we’re always keen to hear from people with ideas and help build the story that way. Every member of the team, I think, punches above their weight in terms of talent, and also the networks that they build and maintain. And, and that’s key, right? Keep sharing, keep learning and keep growing.”


NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment 

Smart Places Customer Charter


Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Simon via LinkedIn or via email: Simon.Hunter@planning.nsw.gov.au  

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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