“A Smart City has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with community choice…ultimately enabled by technology but at its core it’s about people and how people fulfil their social and economic needs.” Neil GlentworthEpisode 47 of The Smart City Podcast.

It’s time we started to realise that Smart Cities are much less about the technology and much more about the people, and only then using technology as an enabler to meet the needs of the community. It’s also important to realise that it’s not just about the cities but more about all of the places that we live, work and play. This is why I’m shifting my language as to include the areas that I am most passionate about, that is remote, rural and regional areas, with the terms Smart Community and Smart Region.

Growing up in Roma and now living in Toowoomba, I am passionate about helping local councils and communities on their Smart Community journey.

“A Smart Community is digitally connected to its infrastructure, citizens and future. There’s a real balance between that fear of the technology and the warp speed at which it’s taking over some of our lives…that’s why it’s so important that we start to embed that in our decision making – it’s happening whether we like it or not.” Daniel FletcherEpisode 45 of The Smart City Podcast.

Some might say that we don’t need any of this high tech stuff. But we have to realise that disruption is everywhere and change is coming with or without us involved. If we aren’t on the front foot, we risk being swept away with the wave of technology that is already forming. If we start swimming now and get involved, we can make better decisions with what is available to us.

Technology can work along beside us to help us make a positive impact in people’s lives. I’m a big advocate of #techforgood. Technology can connect people together, allow people to access the transport network and help small businesses grow into the global market. This is all achieved through a Smart Region approach.

It’s important to not think in silos—one group, one town, one street—but rather as a whole eco-system or Smart Region. We can cross-pollinate learnings across council borders and community group lines. In order to do this, however, we need to be working towards a common vision, setting desired outcomes and engaging in genuine collaboration.

“Technology is genuinely an enabler to this space…it’s not an outcome but it’s a process and more a frame of mind along that journey.” Merrick Spain Episode 63 of The Smart City Podcast. 

Smart Regions use technology and data as enablers to tackle issues from talent retention and declining populations to resource allocation and budgeting, from improving well-being and happiness to waste management and operational efficiency. If we are all onboard in our Smart Region strategy, we can learn and share with each other and form a strong and united front, which allows for better decision making, value for money and a Smart eco-system of knowledge and expertise.

“How [can] technology…be used to solve problems? Not technology for technology’s sake.” Danielle Storey Episode 35 of The Smart City Podcast

When working towards our vision, we need to ensure we are informed buyers. We are the ones making decisions about the technology that comes into our communities. We are using it to solve the pain points of our community, not just doing technology for technology’s sake. The point is to make our regions more accessible, liveable and sustainable for all and if a certain technology isn’t helping us work towards that, it isn’t useful and doesn’t belong in our Smart Region.

Each location will have a unique application of Smart, each region will look different. We have the opportunity right now to help shape what that looks like.

So what will your region look like tomorrow? Will it look well planned? Will it be using data appropriately to make great decisions? Will it be inclusive and diverse? And will it be a hub of talent and an attractive place to live, work and play?

Our decisions today will shape these answers. We want to create a future where we’ve created communities, towns and regions that we feel good about.

“Smart Community…is really about…enabling the way that we [want to] live our lives.” Bronwyn Voyce Episode 51 of The Smart City Podcast

Being Smart does not start with technology, it starts with focusing on our communities’ needs and discovering what is possible by not doing things the way we’ve always done them.

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