Opportunity for NSW regional councils to become ‘smart-ready’

The NSW Government has launched a $2.4 million partnership with two Sydney universities to bring smart cities technology to regional councils.

Wendy Tuckerman

The Smart Regional Spaces: Ready, Set, Go! is a partnership with the University of Sydney and UNSW Sydney under the Smart Places Strategy.

The project will run for 16-months and the team is seeking to partner with three regional NSW councils to pilot a process and range of tools to help them become ‘smart-ready’, which will then be made available to all regional councils in the state after the project.

Minister for Local Government Wendy Tuckerman said 91 regional councils could eventually benefit from the partnership.

“Examples of smart place initiatives include smart street lighting, real-time bus schedules available on digital screens or through apps, using smart sensors to gather waste management data or smart sensors installed on parking spaces,” she said in a statement.

Addressing digital divide

The UNSW team, co-led by Associate Professor Kate Bishop and Senior Lecturer Dr Christine Steinmetz, will provide custom-designed training, digital tools and strategy development support.

“There has long been a digital divide between the state’s urban and rural communities,” Associate Professor Bishop said in a statement.

Dr Steinmetz said the university will deliver a suite of digital tools, templates and training modules to help councils develop their strategies.

“Local councils need effective, affordable and relevant smart systems to inform decisions related to open-space and asset management, urban design and public infrastructure,” she said in a statement.

The team from the University of Sydney specialises in various aspects of the built environment, with a focus on the relationship between people and place.

They look at ‘smart cities’ through planning, landscape architecture, geography, architecture, engineering, education and environmental psychology.

Professor Robyn Dowling, Dean of the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, said smart technology solutions are already a reality in metropolitan cities.

“We want to position rural and regional areas to take full advantage of the smart places movement by providing the tools, training and know-how to get them started,” she said in a statement.

Smart places

The NSW government’s smart places strategy, which was launched in 2020, applies a place-based approach to smart cities.

“Smart Places are where the physical and digital environments converge. They integrate technologies into the built environment to capture and convey data and insights,” the strategy said.

Smart Regional Spaces: Ready, Set, Go! is funded through the Digital Restart Fund under the Smart Places Acceleration Program.

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