Which Are Australia’s ‘Smartest’ Cities?
Smart cities are a popular topic lately, with technology becoming efficient enough for many councils to be willing to invest, and the general public enjoying the many benefits of that investment. From free public charging stations or Wi-Fi to modern transport solutions, wastewater monitoring, recycling initiatives, and noise protection, smart cities help their residents stay safe, healthy, and connected. A 2020 report from the Queensland University of Technology’s Urban Studies Lab put 180 of Australia’s local government areas (LGAs) under the smart cities microscope to evaluate how they stack up in categories like innovation industries, safety and security, accessibility, and sustainability — let’s take a look at those results.
What Makes a City ‘Smart’?
Before we look into the precise metrics of Australia’s smartest LGAs, it’s good to define what exactly the Urban Studies Lab was looking for in their study. They define a smart city as one which “offers a blueprint…to tackle urban sustainability and liveability issues by the means of information and communication technology solutions.” This begins with using sensor networks, machine learning algorithms, and advanced analytical techniques to discover pain points in the everyday resident’s life — think awkward intersections, disruptively loud flight paths, or poor air quality. It ends with a higher quality of life and a population that’s more civically and economically engaged and educated. In the middle is the local government: the people designing the policies that will take the data gathered by the technological half of the smart city framework and use it to create a better city to live in.
Consequently, city smartness encompasses both modern technological innovations, as well as the social, environmental, and economic capital gained from intelligent decision-making.
So Which City is Smartest?
North Sydney came in first place in the Urban Studies Lab report — in fact, NSW held eight of the top ten spots, and a full third of the top sixty. North Sydney grabbed the blue ribbon by virtue of their comprehensive Smart City Strategy and Action Plan, built around six areas of focus: Travel, Infrastructure, Economy, Leadership, Sustainability, and Community. Since its adoption in 2019, the Action Plan has already resulted in a number of key achievements, including a large number of new electric vehicle charging stations, a streamlining and updating of the council’s digital services, solar photovoltaics installed on public buildings, and a “Tech Help for Seniors” program. You can see how those six areas are all boosted by these developments, and how the lives of North Sydney residents would be directly improved by them all.
Many other LGAs have been following similar plans to North Sydney, with the Urban Studies Lab report finding that more than a quarter (about 27.5 per cent) of Australians are residing in a local government area that is classified as top-performing. The report’s lead author, Tan Yigitcanlar, also states that “Any local government is only as strong as the other local governments within its vicinity. They must interact to share and access public resources.” This proves itself true within the report, with four of the top six spots being held by LGAs adjacent or close to North Sydney.
What About the Rest of Australia?
Outside of NSW, the ACT came in at seventh place — and was also recently ranked as one of the most sustainable cities in the world — while Victoria and Western Australia held the remaining places in the top twenty. When factoring in population density, and weighting numbers across the whole 180 LGAs, the overall state rankings are:
Of course, these rankings are generated in a vacuum, only looking at specific variables. They don’t take into account a number of factors such as residents’ economic status, councils’ federal funding, or outside interference like natural disasters. Additionally, the report was completed in 2020, making some of the data now outdated in this very rapidly-growing area. Our own experiences as providers of smart city technologies have shown LGAs in QLD, SA, and NT to be very receptive to new technology, and consequently growing into fantastic places to live.