Smart Cities: Communities of the Future was held on August 20, and gathered some of Australia (and the world’s!) leading thinkers in the field of smart communities to discuss and debate what our future cities should look like.

Speakers at the event included Amen Ra Mashariki, the Global Director of the Data Lab at the World Resources Institute; Melissa Harris, the Executive Director for Strategic Land Assessment & Information at the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; and Nathaniel Bavinton, Innovation and Futures Manager, City of Newcastle.

We also heard from a number of council representatives who are implementing smart community initiatives in their regions, including Martin Darcy from Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council; Catherine Hill from City of Melbourne; Imogen Schifferle from City of Albury Wodonga; Chris Rowlands, from City of Greater Bendigo; Grace de Leon from Christchurch City Council; and Joshua Sattler from City of Darwin.

The conference attracted over 670 registrations from around Australia, and some from further afield too. This conference built on our highly successful inaugural Virtual Conference, which was held in May. While our first conference was very much focused on how city and place makers had been immediately impacted by COVID-19, in Communities of the Future we looked at the changes we actually want to see in our cities, suburbs and places moving forward.

Some of the questions we sought to answer during the event included:

  • What aspects of our communities do want to take forward into a post-COVID world? 
  • What do we want to change now for the better? 
  • What do we want work to look like in the future? 
  • What is the future for central, densely-populated cities? 
  • How do we want to move around communities? 
  • Do we still need to move around communities? 
  • Do we have the digital infrastructure we need for new ways of life? How can we address the digital divide?

And our speakers did not disappoint in their exploration of these topics.

Being an expert in data analysis and use, Amen’s presentation was centred around the simple (but often overlooked) concept that before you can use data, you need to know what the problem you’re solving is. It’s critical that community and place makers look at what is happening in their communities, define the problems they want to address, and then work backwards to solve that issue with data and analytics.

For Melissa Harris, who’s currently at the helm of the Victorian state government’s cadastre modernisation program, the focus was on digital twins, and the benefits they provide. Melissa’s project is focused on creating a unified, digital representation of Melbourne’s Fisherman’s Bend precinct, which will help in the planning and development of this new precinct. As Melissa said, the digital twin project will allow planners to make mistakes in the digital world, to ensure the real world execution of the new precinct is on point.

Nathaniel meanwhile presented on a number of specific initiatives the City of Newcastle has been able to bring to life as a result of its Smart Cities planning program, and the funding it has secured, including funding from the Federal Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

Our panel sessions offered some really engaging conversations for delegates, who also had the opportunity to put questions to our panelists. Some of the questions we explored during the panel sessions included: is data the new oil? How can we make data openly accessible? How can we ensure data is being used for good and not evil? How can we bridge the digital divide? How do we make the leap from smart community planning to smart community action?

Once again, this conference delivered by Monkey Media and ASCA was completely free to attend, providing you with learning opportunities, which anyone and everyone can access.

If you missed the opportunity to listen in to the conference live, you can now view the conference on demand, at a time that suits you. Just head to to check it out today.


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