Engagement and disruption in Smart City Futures

The upcoming Queenslanders in Conversation event on 9 August will focus on Smart Cities; what makes a city ‘smart’? How do we build a smart city that works for everyone? Joining the panel of academics and industry experts is Futurist Facilitator, Dr Colin Russo. Here Dr Russo discusses the importance of a consulted and engaged community to the success of future smart cities.  

Whether we define smart cities as just being full of smart people, or as being made smarter by emerging technology, citizens want to be engaged about their futures. There is a stark difference between the importance and satisfaction of council services to Communities e.g. They know that traditional roads, rates and rubbish outcomes are important and are well managed but studies show that those services are not as satisfying to them as directly being consulted and informed through an empowering engagement process.

Through a community consultation, citizens can discuss with elected officials and decision makers the benefit of outcomes to themselves, their families and their area of expertise. It's an opportunity for leaders to exchange views. Whether the community is interested in professions, mining, manufacturing, retail or technology, consultation is better than just hearing about the outcome somewhere.

We have to remember that smart cities do more than creating and using technology. In truly smart cities, technology becomes the enabler and not a controller of lives. In smart cities, people need to be smart so that they can direct the use of technology appropriately.

Communities are consulted in visioning initiatives about social cohesion, environmental sustainability, economic innovation and many other issues. Then, citizens see new policies, strategies, actions and innovations emerge. In smart cities, citizens are currently expecting strategies to involve them in how technology can inform their lives. Some locations, like Singapore and Rio, are attempting to combine data into virtual reality dashboards and models that give a city snapshot of issues like crowd movement in precincts and on motorways. The Sunshine Coast has recently used modelling to show how effective its new solar panel installation is.

But while each city is delivering its own smart city frameworks, there are discrepancies across smart city approaches, needing guidelines. Or, do guidelines take the fun out of innovation? More importantly, and before you know it, cities will ask "what did smart cities frameworks do for us?" The hope is, that they can reduce crime, car congestion, inform, energy use etc., but will communities be satisfied once they see that the internet is infrastructure like roads, rates and rubbish?

What might disrupt the smart city approach? Will communities be dispossessed of land as smart villages are built? Will technology satisfy everyone? Or will people continue to crave connectivity? Certainly, cities should avoid the multimillion dollar projects seen to be delivered by corporates "the top end of town" if the middle and lower ends aren't going to be sufficiently advantaged

Also, by focusing on smart cities are we doing all we can to focus on the biggest Australian income earning export outside of coal mining, i.e., the education economy? Education is key to consciousness and to making technology an enabler and not a controller. And by focusing on smart gov hacking are we doing the opposite of what futures initiatives were designed to do - open us up to preferred futures, instead of focusing on one sector only? So working across multiple domains is important to cities, particularly in a world where data is now shared globally - but is all data good data?

One of the pitfalls is to do simply what other cities are doing. This can result in used futures where instead we want to make smart cities that also focus on, for example, health and learning.

Do you have any questions for Dr Colin Russo, and the other Smart City panelists? Register now for the event via the link below or tune in online to the live stream and join the conversation using #digitalfutures

Event details
Queenslanders in Conversation: Are Smart Cities for everyone?
Wednesday 9th August l 6pm – 7.15pm
registrations required l Auditorium 1, Level 2


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