“Australia to be a leading digital economy and society by 2030” is the vision outlined by the Federal Budget with $1.2bn of funding being committed to the digital economy in 2021. In the digital economy strategy, the federal government has mentioned the importance of growing, protecting and promoting Australia’s critical and emerging technologies to benefit citizens’ prosperity, security and way of life, one of which is smart cities.

Smart City Initiatives are starting up throughout the world in many different forms and visions. Each initiative has a different message or messages around sustainability, GDP growth, social improvements, security etc. The vision of these cities is based on two major strategies: one that is smart and the other being intelligent.

A smart city is characterised by the idea that one or two smart technologies are utilised to establish an end-to-end service for its customers, such as energy, transportation, water, health care, education, tourism, waste management, smart buildings, smart businesses and smart government etc. This service sometimes considers the natural environment to ensure minimal impact and use of resources. These services are usually siloed and sponsored by one or two agencies with minimal governance and process integration.

On the other hand, an Intelligent City is all about integrating multiple services, as highlighted above across many agencies horizontally. Multiple agencies define the processes and governance to agree on service level objective and agreements with true key performance indicators processing aggregated data based on artificial intelligence gathering and analytical exploration. The definitive outcome is a city that can respond ubiquitously towards natural disasters, events, pandemic etc., in an integrated manner.

In my experience in developing and advising smart cities, the common stop-gap in the pursuit of creating a fully integrated intelligent city is not a question of the technology available but an organisational culture and structure that enables horizontal collaboration. As McKinsey Global Institute stated, “intelligent cities start with people, not technology.”

This inter-agency orchestration required to achieve the vision of an intelligent city requires a leadership team with a diversity of thought, skillset and knowledge.  In our view, executive teams and Boards who bring career experience in only two or three sectors still do not have the right blend and breadth of expertise, industry or sector focus.

At Blenheim Partners, we believe that to truly reap the benefits and realise the much sought-after intelligent city, a new organisation structure must be put in place. Our dedicated 5G, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital Transformation Practice, covers all industries to identify those who bring the technical, commercial, and leadership attributes to drive organisations to the next frontier.

If you would like to know more about smart cities, the impacts of 5G, and the opportunities it presents, we would be delighted to explain further.

Barry Lerner
Partner, 5G, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital Transformation
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