The city of Newcastle is fast emerging as a smart, liveable and sustainable city.
As Lord Mayor of Newcastle, it is indeed an honour as a local government leader to explain in the OECD Yearbook how, as a fledgling "smart city", we're harnessing the digital and knowledge economies to tackle the challenges of modern urban life.
Collaborations here, just north of Sydney, between government, education and private sectors see an era of post-industrial decline rapidly giving way to a future of technological innovation for a regional population of 750,000.
As a council committed to sustainable development and open and collaborative leadership, we are helping transform a former steelworks town into a smart city brimming with opportunities in the technology, health, education, aerospace and defence, and renewable energy sectors. From building a “tech” hub in our city's civic heart and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects through libraries and grants, to installing safe, separated cycle ways and photovoltaic arrays with battery storages, the sustainability imperative is foremost in mind. Since a successful trial of sensor technology to help diners find parking and provide business insights on a popular restaurant strip two years ago, our smart city vision is quickly taking shape. The above partnerships and support from Australia's Commonwealth Science & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Cisco and IBM have positioned us for success.
Meanwhile, strategic planning and a light rail project are breathing new life into the city's central business district to attract record investment in housing.
What's to come will eclipse even these successes. An innovation partnership between Newcastle City Council, the University of Newcastle (UON) and local business improvement groups is a promising development. The Hunter Innovation Project (HIP) features construction of an innovation hub for researchers, industry and entrepreneurs to commercialise ideas and promote economic development.
The AUS$18 million HIP (US$13.5 million) includes technology to help council run the city more efficiently, whether through energy efficiencies like smart lighting, targeted bin collections or parking space allocations. This hardware, including the use of sensor technology, promises business and tech developers valuable insights and, when the free wi-fi component rolls out, will be available to the 2,000 students soon moving into UON's new inner-city campus.
For the tech savvy, the HIP will also see the deployment of Australia's most sophisticated “internet of things” platform across the city centre as we create a data-rich urban environment for tech prototyping and civic innovation. A network of innovation hubs will help connect our region's competitive advantages, while a memorandum of understanding we recently signed with the leading network of smart cities GSC3, which includes Amsterdam, will help us create a smart city.
A global outlook is key to our smart city strategy and for generating new investment. Progress to date has been recognised in national and international press and by international agencies, such as the UN and indeed the OECD. A commitment to sustainable development saw Newcastle officially recognised as a UN City in 2016, while the UON was made a training centre to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and social and industrial upheaval in the Pacific.
Natural assets in our city and region helped grab the attention of National Geographic Traveler Magazine, which declared us one of the world's top “smart cities to watch” for meeting the challenges of 21st century urban life. Sparkling surf beaches and renowned vineyards in our hinterland complement our smart city vision and help attract some 10 million tourists a year.
As the Australian exemplar of post-industrial transition, Newcastle has been acknowledged by Austrade and the Australian Smart Communities Association as a leading smart city actively cultivating a knowledge-based services economy. The kudos is based on our firm commitment to open and collaborative leadership and rapid progress in becoming a smart, sustainable and liveable city.
© OECD Yearbook 2017