Call for funding to fast-track smart communities

Australian Smart Communities Association

Monday, 04 April, 2022

Call for funding to fast-track smart communities

Australia continues to advance within the smart community space, with over 100 local governments having established smart community frameworks and a further one in five in the process of delivering a dedicated smart program.

Despite the progress, limited funding and a lack of strategic direction at a national level sees many smart community developments stagnate at a local level. This issue is something that the Australian Smart Communities Association (ASCA) President Laura Barker would like to see overcome and suggests it is a conversation that must be elevated to a national level.

“Globally, we see leading cities and countries reaping the benefits of the digital technology and innovation. ASCA continues to advocate for all levels of government to coordinate and focus on advancement of community-led technology and innovative solutions. This requires a coordinated approach from the federal government to see the wide-scale benefits across the country,” Baker said.

In response, ASCA has released its federal election platform, aimed at generating discussion and fast-tracking Australia’s smart community agenda. The association sees Australia as full of diverse and vibrant communities waiting to harness smart solutions which will see increased economic development, sustainability, digital capacity and social outcomes.

Created in partnership with the ASCA Board and key members, the platform outlines how technology, data and innovation can build better outcomes for Australia. With the recent release of the federal Budget, ASCA welcomes the outlined digital and technology funding allocations. However, more funding is needed in critical areas to advance the digital economy and support the adoption of smart technology in Australia. In particular, the areas of renewable energy, climate innovation funding, digital inclusion and smart infrastructure require more investment to unlock social, economic and environmental outcomes.

There are four strategic areas that ASCA proposes to the federal government to accelerate Australia’s smart community agenda:

1. Develop roadmap and funding for scalable smart infrastructure

Developing a roadmap with associated funding to fast-track digital technology, innovation and transformation at a national level. The key recommendation is to fund Rounds 3 and 4 of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program with commitment of $75m per year for three years to enable local governments to deploy scalable smart infrastructure. There will be a focus on partnerships, community resilience and enabling more regional participation in the fund.

2. Improve delivery of digital skills and STEM

Socially focused policies are equally as important as physical infrastructure. ASCA recommends the development of a National Digital Inclusion Roadmap to support the reporting and adoption of activities to reduce the digital divide. Supporting this is a recommended skills package to build digital economy-ready communities with a focus on attracting and retaining future-ready skills to local government.

3. Increase funding for climate innovation and partnerships

To develop solutions that effectively address climate change, ASCA recommends the establishment of the Smart and Clean Innovation Fund to enable researchers, businesses, start-ups and local government bodies to test and scale up innovative technologies in the domains of smart renewable energy transition, carbon capture, electric vehicle adoption and climate disaster management.

4. Scale connectivity and innovation across regions

Achieving scalability of 5G connectivity and innovative solutions, ASCA recommends developing a network of Living Lab hubs across Australia who are responsible for using public spaces to test and trial global and local start-up technologies in partnership with community and businesses.

By harnessing Australia’s dynamic and diverse regions at a national level, communities around Australia will see increased collaboration and smart solutions emerge, increasing economic development, sustainability, digital capacity and community confidence, as well as establishing Australia as a global leader in the smart community movement.

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