Research to learn how smart tech will transform city governance

29 November 2016
Understanding the quality of life and efficiency of cities

The University of Sydney has received an Australian Research Council grant to investigate the way smart technologies will change how Australian cities are governed.

City skyline of buildings

Leading the three-year research project is Professor Robyn Dowling, an urban planning researcher in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, in collaboration with Professor Pauline McGuirk, a human geographer at the University of Wollongong.

"This will be the first major analysis to understand the promise and peril of 'smart city' strategies in Australia," said Professor Dowling.

"Smart technologies are changing the way cities operate to enhance quality of life, efficiency and innovation. It is a key strategy that governments in Australia and internationally are adopting to address economic prosperity, urban efficiency, and resource security.

"Yet, we have little understanding of how these strategies are being rolled out in Australia and the potential social, economic and political implications," she said.

A national audit and detailed on-the-ground case studies across Sydney, Parramatta and Newcastle will underpin the three-year research project. The findings will provide insight into how new technologies are altering the coordination and governance of city life in Australia.

The grant recognises the rising importance of cities as sites of innovation and economic growth that is supported by Australia's national innovation agenda and the Federal appointment of the new Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation earlier in the year.

Professor Dowling said: "Our research will provide the evidence for how 'smart cities' will change society and how it is governed. It will also track how governance is being reworked in a technology-mapped society, and by new interests and alliances that are being given the power to run the city through smart capabilities.

"These alliances include 'top-down', city-led strategies, projects led by urban authorities and tech corporations, as well as 'bottom-up' community-led initiatives.

"The knowledge gathered will inform ongoing policy debates that will help shape smart cities, which are hopefully more equitable and fair for all people," she said.

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