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Getting community and businesses involved

Adam Beck, Executive Director of SCCANZ, examines the importance of pilot projects and proof-of-concept within smart cities.
And I know I’m being hard on ourselves but we do need to pat ourselves on the back, we’ve done very, very well when it’s come to testing and piloting, proof of concepts. We’ve dipped our toe in the water, we’ve had a play. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to really scale out of that level of activity. There’s a lot of one-offs. A lot of one-offs where a technology solution, data solution was applied, and it was fine. They’d kind of, the organisation, for whatever reason, then didn’t do it again and again and again.
And so for me, I mean every action, every investment, in my mind, needs to at least have gone through a filter of ‘can technology and data help us do this better’. So, we haven’t institutionalised Smart Cities yet. There is a cohort of cities here, New Zealand, globally, that are certainly getting closer to that. It is by far the, the exception and not the norm. So, I, I would still put our level of maturity as being low. The barriers are not the technology, not the solutions, it comes back to a lot of these horizontal issues that keep getting in the way and keep causing us some, some trouble, like procurement and funding and politics, for example.
So, there’s still opportunity for us to, to mature. And I think the amount of pilots we’ve been doing, we’re now primed to scale and replicate if we’ve got the will. [Chris Vas]: So, you talked about scale-up as being, you know, undone to a large extent. What do you see as some of the hinderances that, that prevent, you know, the scale of opportunity? I mean, clearly if your early prototypes have delivered on positive results and successes on benefits to the community, surely businesses and organisation and firms would look for those scale of opportunities? You know, where has been the bottleneck?
I mean, apart from, you know, the procurement and the, and the horizontal issues that you also addressed, do you see particular challenges with, at the community level in terms of embracing, adopting some of these solutions? [Adam Beck]: My response to that question probably a few years ago would have been not really. However, the past 12, 18 months we have certainly seen a very rapid increase in the level of not only knowledge but just awareness and therefore concern around things like data privacy. There’s been a couple of global events as well, you know, that Cambridge Analytica thing.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about it or not, or how detailed or whether it was right or wrong or whatever, perception is very strong. You know. So, we’ve had a couple of instances where there’s been certain behaviours that have allowed the community to really sort of, you know, the antenna is now very finely attuned around, for example, that issue around privacy and their data. And I don’t want to portray it as the community has slowed us or is slowing us at all. Privacy, in fact, can be an amazing enabler for Smart Cities. The political appetite to continue to invest and deploy has potentially been the reason things have slowed.
So, the community is very much, you know, well aware of some of these issues now. I’m not saying necessarily they’re slowing it or they’re a blocker, but it goes back into Government and Government typically don’t take risks. The big issue – I’m not saying I agree with it – the big issue for me still comes down to money and the availability of capital funding and/or financing to actually invest and deploy. And the, the data shows that. You know. You go to any half decent survey that’s been conducted globally around barriers to Smart Cities, funding and financing will always be in the top three. The money issue is a key one.
And then we also have some lingering headaches around procurement, governance, and the continued siloed nature of some organisations. And, and politics always thrown in there as a, as a sort of a ‘buy three get one free’ kind of barrier to, to sort of change. So, it’s hard. But in saying that, I certainly see some incredible leadership at Local Council levels, right from the Mayor.
It’s amazing what an international trip can do to sort of open your eyes when you’ve had a Mayor sort of walk through Barcelona or Amsterdam or Singapore, we see direct linkages from the Mayor directly experiencing international leadership cities to then, you know, essentially spark a Smart Cities agenda in, in a Local Authority, you know, back home here. So, there is really, really good leadership coming but again, the exception and not the norm. [Chris Vas]: There is a thriving ecosystem of startups in, in Christchurch and right across New Zealand that are looking to support those Smart City solutions and looking at those prototypes and scale of opportunities.
How are you seeing it in, in your part of the world in, in Oz [Australia], how are businesses, you know, pivoting their strategies to, to Smart Cities agenda? Or are they? Or are they not? [Adam Beck]: We have seen, you know, for decades the role of sustainability, social licence to operate, you know, play a big role in, in some cases forcing businesses but in a lot of instances probably the majority to voluntarily, at a Board and executive and senior level, to realise that the work they do can be a force for good. So, that’s been a very strong agenda and that’s been supported by incredible frameworks and the likes of the carbon disclosure project.
You know, there’s a whole range of really powerful global frameworks and reporting mechanisms that have really helped businesses justify the pivot and, and the transition to sort of more sustainable practices. My hope, and I suppose my comment is that this is not different. Smart Cities is no different to any of those other agendas that are trying to do good. How I describe it is ‘Lead with the outcomes’. You know, you want to be more sustainable, you want to be more resilient, you want to be more socially inclusive.
Enter any buzzword that you want, any framework, any outcome that you want, the likelihood is technology and data could probably really play a, an important role in helping you get there quicker, cheaper, and potentially in a more inclusive way. So, we hope that in business’ pathway to greater sustainability and social consciousness or whatever it might be, that Smart Cities can like be a really strong cheerleader for that, you know, it can come up behind those issues and help them accelerate that. So, it’s a narrative that we’ve tried to really sort of push, we’ll slowly get there but I think there’s some, there’s some fantastic unity and alignment there with, with those multiple agendas with Smart Cities.

Across many smart city initiatives, pilot projects and proof-of-concept (PoC) cases are shaping up.

However, the challenge with these small efforts is imperative to scale-up. Adam Beck, Executive Director of SCCANZ, discusses this issue and more in this segment.

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Smart Cities: Social Change Through Technology

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