Lake Macquarie City Council has laid the foundation for creating a more connected, innovative and resilient city, with the adoption of the Lake Mac Smart City, Smart Council Digital Economy Strategy.
A key development here has been that the council started this project by looking internally. They understood that if they were to develop a smart city they first had to make sure that they themselves could operate as a smart council. From the start the strategy was supported at the highest level within council – the CEO, the Mayor, councillors and the key council directors. They also appointed a smart city officer who could work on a horizontal level within the organisation, which is, like all other councils, typically silo-based.
A key element in their strategy is how to deploy new technologies to make a more connected and sustainable and innovative city.
Through Dantia, the city’s economic development company, local businesses and other important stakeholders were brought into the development of the strategy in a collaborative way.
With all of this in place council looked at the low-hanging fruits – what projects could be initiated that could show its citizens what this is all about.
They held extensive community consultations, workshops and ideas competitions throughout the council area, which is comprised of nine communities – each with its own strong sense of community, but each with different problems. This process is also supported by a website that continuously interacts with the citizens.
The strategy that they announced in March 2016 identifies 18 initiatives that will help boost the local economy, improve the council’s performance and ultimately enhance the lifestyle of residents.
As part of the strategy, council will be using video content when publishing council news. It is also investigating the use of solar-powered mobile device-recharging benches at parks, has introduced smart meters and solar panels at community facilities, and is supporting co-working space.
Other initiatives identified in the strategy include rolling out free Wi-Fi in council-operated spaces; developing an online tool to improve community access to property flood information and conditions; implementing smart infrastructure and smart systems; and investigating options for replacing council’s ageing mobile library.
With a solid strategic foundation in place Lake Macquarie is well-positioned to build its smart city – one that will deliver a range of social and economic benefits for all players involved and will create a more liveable, workable and happy city to live in.
I am proud to have been able to play an advisory role in this process.