A key reason for my participation in the Smart City World Congress in Barcelona was to further work on international smart city collaboration that was started exactly a year ago at the Dutch Australian Smart City Summit in Sydney, which was attended by Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.
Since that time there have been two further smart city missions from the Netherlands to Australia and eight Australian cities have signed up to international collaboration within the Global Smart City and Community Coalition (GSC3): Adelaide, Bendigo, Canberra, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Sydney, Ipswich and Moreton Bay. While the current focus is on Dutch-Australian collaboration there are, in all, 25 cities in Europe, America and Asia involved in this alliance.
In this coalition four active international projects are under consideration with the Australian cities of Bendigo, Canberra, Newcastle and Ipswich. The Barcelona event was used to further strengthen some of these potential partnerships.
The Dutch Pavilion at the Expo was used as a base to meet, and at the GSC3 stand the eight Australian members featured with their own video presentations. The Australian delegation (of over 25 people) was organised and led by Austrade. A range of Australian cities used the Barcelona event to participate in the collaboration discussions and some of them also travelled on to the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe for private visits. The Australian cities visiting Barcelona included Bendigo, Newcastle, Perth, Sunshine Coast, Sydney and Wollondilly Shire.
While all cities and communities are different and have different needs, at a basic level they share the same concerns challenges and opportunities. These issues form an excellent basis for national and international collaboration. Cities are working together for the following reasons:
- Gathering information, tapping into experiences elsewhere and looking for scalability opportunities.
- Developing eco-systems and transition paths in the key areas mentioned below.
- Creating business, investment and revenue models. For cities further focus is required on their own SMEs.
Key areas of collaboration that were discussed include:
- Circular Economy – The transition from raw materials and the re-use of these materials. (Being a small country the Netherlands has many such projects in place that attract the attention of the delegates).
- Energy – Paris Climate Accord is a key driver here. The Dutch will phase out fossil fuel by 2050 and petrol cars by 2030. This stimulates the development of transition plans and sustainable smart energy projects (several Australian cities have indicated they are keen to learn from this). Dutch energy company Alliander is a key driver of many of the GSC3 smart energy initiatives.
- Healthcare – The concept of the 4Ps was to introduce the creation of a healthy city: Predictive, Preventive, Personal and Participative. Amsterdam aims to add two extra healthy years to the life of their citizens.
- Urban Living – The huge increase in digital services, products, infrastructure – big data, AI, blockchain, IoT – requires the transformation of private and public services. A key outcome was that far more coordination is required. This requires ‘smart local councils’. Estonia (Tallinn) is the world leader here and through GSC3 valuable lessons can be learned from them.
- Resilience – People and businesses are increasingly taking this into account when selecting places of residence and business. Tokyo is a good example here.
- Safety, Security, Privacy – Cities become more vulnerable and require much higher levels of resilience. Cities are starting to establish IoT registers. The Hague – as the international city of peace and justice – is leading smart city cybersecurity through the Council of Global City CIOs (Canberra has also been invited to participate).
- Mobility – Home, work and social mobility, too many cars, sharing initiatives such as mobility as a service (MaaS), smart parking. Interesting projects include home-to-home (sharing) transport and parking solutions organised by event venues (Amsterdam Arena Stadium).
- City Labs – For collaboration, project development, fostering and developing innovation, creation of new start-ups and new value-add jobs, mentoring by leading national and international ‘smart city’ companies.
Cities that are serious about smart cities (liveable cities, innovation and job creation, social and economic developments, social and economic developments, sustainability and reliance) all have come to the conclusion that they can’t do this alone. National and international collaboration is essential to achieve those goals.