​Labor proposes smart cities plan under resurrected National Urban Policy

All projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia would need to provision for smart infrastructure under the federal opposition's proposed smart cities plan.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal opposition has announced its intention to embed a smart cities agenda in its National Urban Policy, a policy developed when Labor was last in power from 2007 through 2013.

While there are examples in cities and towns across Australia of smart technology being used effectively, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese said there is no unifying framework at a national level to facilitate a genuine smart cities agenda.

According to Albanese, a one-off program can provide targeted investment that gets projects and trials off the ground; however it is "no driver of change".

"Like it or not, technology is changing the way we live, the way we work and the way we play," Albanese told the Australian Smart Communities Conference in Melbourne on Friday.

"Keeping pace, not just as individuals but also as cities and towns, remains a challenge. It is up to policy makers, experts and government to ensure that all people benefit from advancements in technology."

The Labor shadow minister believes that without a National Urban Policy, it is very hard to have a smart cities policy.

"That's why I'm announcing today that a federal Labor government would embed a smart cities agenda in our national urban policy," he said. "This builds on our legacy from when we were last in government where we released 'Our Cities, Our Future' -- Australia's first ever comprehensive National Urban Policy.

"Labor is committed to integrating a smart cities agenda in our National Urban Policy because we know that technology has a key role to play in improving the productivity, sustainability, and liveability of our cities."

Albanese said the initial challenge with smart cities is defining exactly what it means -- in particular, defining what the government means when it talks about smart cities.

"On one hand we have a technical response, where a 'smart city', according to IBM, is 'one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available today to better understand and control its operations and optimise the use of limited resources'," the shadow minister said.

"But the truth is such a technical response overlooks both the complexity of cities and the potential of those people living in them. In my view, a simpler and more practical approach paints a clearer picture while ensuring we don't overlook a city's most valuable asset -- its people."

The shadow minister's own definition is centred on those that "use the latest technology and urban design techniques to deliver on three key objectives: Productivity, sustainability, and liveability".

Labor believes its smart cities plan will offer a new opportunity to address issues around the impact of climate change on Australia's urban environment, housing affordability, urban congestion, ensuring cities have an efficient public transport network, and that people have access to employment centres.

"But a silo approach won't get us there and that's why it's important we acknowledge that a truly 'smart' city has a few additional defining characteristics, particularly when it comes to governance," Albanese continued. "Having a consistent, unifying national framework in the form of Labor's proposed National Urban Policy is a good place to start."


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