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Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and one of Australia’s largest cities, is best known for its harbourfront Sydney Opera House, with a distinctive sail-like design. Massive Darling Harbour and the smaller Circular Quay port are hubs of waterside life, with the arched Harbour Bridge and esteemed Royal Botanic Garden nearby. Sydney Tower’s outdoor platform, the Skywalk, offers 360-degree views of the city and suburbs.

The City of Sydney is experiencing rapid change. Our population is growing, the needs of our community and environment are intensifying and technological advancements are disrupting our urban realm. Against this backdrop, we have developed a smart city strategic framework to harness the opportunities brought about by digital disruption, plan for uncertainty and sustain our global reputation as a leading place to live, work, learn and visit. The framework serves to both inform the development of Sustainable Sydney 2050 and stand alone as the City’s adopted framework to guide the ongoing implementation of smart city initiatives.

This framework was developed in consultation with the community, the smart city ecosystem, and City staff. A draft of the framework was exhibited to the public from 21 January to17 February 2020. The framework was downloaded 231 times and 30 submissions were received predominantly from key stakeholders in the smart city ecosystem which was overwhelmingly supportive of the framework’s outcomes and approach.

In summary, feedback and commentary were received across the following issues: innovation, data (particularly in relation to privacy, ethics, and security), digital rights and trust, collaboration and co-creation, economic development, evaluation, and review, and standards. Specific items of feedback have been incorporated into the final framework, with the following additions and references now included in the document:

  • The City’s commitment to the declaration of Cities Coalition for Digital Rights
  • The NSW Government Privacy Framework which includes conducting privacy impact assessments and statements in relation to smart city projects
  • Public interest as a key factor in the development of new technologies with respect to ethical innovation;
  • Specific mention of the framework’s guiding principle of secure and ethical by design into the City’s planning process for new projects and when partnering with others
  • The inclusion of “data” alongside “technology” throughout the document to clarify the equally important role both components play in building a smart city
  • Data is collected purposefully rather than randomly
  • A carbon positive outcome and smart water management as illustrations of how technology and data can help future-proof the environment
  • The importance of managing the impact of smart infrastructure such as 5G on the public domain

The City has a vision for Sydney to be a dynamic, responsive city, harnessing technology, and data to enable collaborative innovation and create a thriving, inclusive, and resilient future for all.

The draft smart city strategic framework is structured around five strategic outcomes. While each outcome focuses on a specific domain, the success of the city’s smart transformation is dependent on a holistic approach, whereby the five outcomes seamlessly integrate and support each other.

Strategic Outcome 1: A city supporting connected, empowered communities. – The primary objective of this outcome is to equip communities with the skills and tools required to participate and flourish in the digital future, ensuring that no one is left behind. There are three priority areas that will guide the City’s approach:

  • a digital-ready community for a digitally-inclusive future;
  • community co-creation in the design and delivery of the city; and
  • open data informing better community decision-making to improve quality of life.

Strategic Outcome 2: A city fuelling global economic competitiveness and attraction and retaining global talent.
The primary objective of this outcome is to embrace digital disruption to foster an innovation ecosystem and sustain Sydney’s position as a global magnet for talent. There are three priority areas that will guide the City’s approach:

  • a thriving innovation ecosystem cultivating a culture of experimentation
  • a knowledge economy and a workforce equipped with the skills and supporting structures to leverage new technologies, accelerating productivity and scalability
  • a world-class destination with a superior visitor experience and a vibrant night-time economy

Strategic Outcome 3: A city future-proofing its environment and bolstering resilience. – The primary objective of this outcome is to accelerate the journey towards a sustainable city, able to adapt and thrive in the face of expected and unexpected challenges. There are three priority areas that will guide the City’s approach:

  • data-driven monitoring, prediction, and management of city conditions and impacts of shocks and stresses;
  • new technologies propelling a greener city and a carbon-neutral future, powered by the circular economy and affordable renewable energy; and
  • informed and prepared communities actively participating to strengthen the local area’s sustainability and resilience.

Strategic Outcome 4: A city cultivating vibrant, liveable places. – The primary objective of this outcome is to integrate the digital and physical landscapes to create diverse, safe, inclusive, and creative places for people. There are three priority areas that will guide the City’s approach:

  • an integrated mobility network supporting active transport
  • visibility across the urban realm to optimize planning, building and maintenance of infrastructure, assets, and systems
  • seamless integration of the physical and digital to strengthen the community’s connection to place and to each other, celebrating the unique identity, culture, and history of the local area

Strategic Outcome 5: A city providing customer-centric, efficient services. – The primary objective of this outcome is to operate as a connected organization to optimize the customer experience and maximize efficiencies. There are three priority areas that will guide the City’s approach:

  • an integrated understanding of community needs and preferences across the City of Sydney to inform the joined-up design and delivery of services
  • multi-channel interactions between the City of Sydney and its communities to deliver responsive, inclusive, personalized services and experiences
  • a smart city operating model to capture maximal efficiencies

Achieving these outcomes will rely on a complete and integrated suite of smart infrastructure components, not all of which will be delivered, owned, or operated by the City. This suite comprises:

  • user interfaces and delivery channels
  • data integration and analytics platforms
  • communications and connectivity networks
  • sensors and devices
  • the physical landscape and infrastructure

As enabling environment that is critical to successful delivery. The components of this environment are:
the smart infrastructure is complex and involves many actors, there are a particular

  • leadership and government
  • funding and financing
  • organizational culture
  • monitoring and measurement

Corporate, Finance, Properties and Tenders Committee

  • partnerships
  • standards and interoperability
  • ethical innovation

Sustainable Sydney 2030 Vision

Sustainable Sydney 2030 is a vision for the sustainable development of the City to 2030 and beyond. It includes 10 strategic directions to guide the future of the City, as well as 10 targets against which to measure progress. This framework is aligned with all strategic directions of Sustainable Sydney 2030 as it provides guidance to the organization in the utilization of technology and data in the delivery of the Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategic directions and objectives.

In addition to Sustainable Sydney, the draft smart city strategic framework has particular strategic alignment with the City’s adopted digital strategy, Tech Startups Action Plan, and the Resilient Sydney strategy.

Organizational Impact

It is important to note that we are not starting from scratch – the City has already implemented or is in the process of implementing many smart city initiatives such as the open data portal, green concrete trial with the University of NSW, smart fleet telematics, smart building management, the resilience data portal, smart pedestrian counting sensors, smart lighting, digital citizenship classes, the commencement of the development of a digital twin of the city, public wi-fi, and smart stormwater management. This framework provides a strategic context for those initiatives. The framework is cross-cutting in nature and will be embedded in the work and projects of the City of Sydney. It is not a new strategic pillar, nor an action plan in and of itself. Smart city activity arising from this strategy will be incorporated into project plans.

Smart city leadership within the organization is key to effecting successful project implementation. The commitment to the smart city agenda and the commitment to flexibility in the allocation of resources needs to be embedded at an executive and Council level.

The framework proposes a distributed governance model that ensures the broad sharing of accountabilities both across the whole of the City of Sydney, as well as the local area. Clear roles and responsibilities of all ecosystem actors need to be established at two levels:

  • (a) the strategic governance level which focuses on agenda-setting and outcomes definition; and
  • (b) the delivery governance level which focuses on implementation that involves the intended beneficiaries via user testing to ensure outcomes are actually realized.

Projects involving new technologies or new ways of working using technology can be expensive to implement and not always work as expected. In addition, skill shortages and/or not engaging the right skills in the delivery of projects presents a risk to the successful delivery of the outcomes of this framework. These risks can be mitigated by adopting a “test, learn, fail fast and iterate” approach to developing new concepts and methods. This allows the City to experiment and innovate with minimal financial and organizational risk.

Social / Cultural / Community

This framework has a strong theme of inclusion. The future success of the city depends on our residential and business communities being digitally active. We need to develop programs that encourage skilled, digitally literate, resilient communities capable of accessing and enjoying the benefits of digital technology.

Supporting communities to successfully transition to a smart future requires orienting educational programs to equip citizens with the skills to leverage digital infrastructure and unlock opportunities. The traditional model of education, in which learning is front-loaded in early life, is not fit to help citizens keep pace with technological advancement. By providing opportunities for lifelong learning and upskilling, the City has a significant opportunity to bridge the digital divide and design a future urban realm that enables the participation and flourishing of all.

By leveraging digital technologies and platforms alongside other innovative engagement approaches, the City can enlist citizens as partners in building the city of the future. With an embedded practice of genuine community engagement, the City is championing a co-creation approach to smart transformation. The City recognizes the significant value that can be realized by using digital civic engagement tools to tap into the knowledge, experience, and innovation of its communities to co-create meaningful solutions that address real needs.

By opening up the data streams the City collects, the human experience of the city can be greatly enhanced. Open data empowers communities to make more effective decisions, improve their own quality of life, and chart a better future. In this way, cities are creating a ‘digital urban commons’, whereby communities have the tools and space to innovate and thrive. This requires a strong commitment to and focus on privacy, ethical use of data, and cyber-security.

New technologies hold the potential for the city to preserve, strengthen, and celebrate its rich cultural diversity. This is fundamental to the concept of ‘digital place-making’ whereby digital platforms provide opportunities for supporting the community to develop meaningful connections to place and to each other.

By leveraging new technologies, we can provide greater opportunities for local artistic and cultural expression, and activate a network of vibrant public places. While technology is often perceived to be a homogenizing force, we have the opportunity to use it for the opposite effect and tell our city’s unique story.

Seamlessly embedding smart technology into the physical landscape is important to prevent it from adding further clutter to the public domain, which would undermine its amenity and appeal as a place for communities to meet and explore.

New technologies have the capability to provide real-time data on a diversity of urban health indicators, including carbon emissions, water, and air quality, infrastructure functionality, crime incident locations, and social cohesion. While risk maps are not new, the vast increase in the availability and quality of data presents the opportunity for us to understand environmental conditions with a far greater degree of granularity.

Technological advancements can support us to accelerate the transition to affordable, renewable energy, and a carbon-neutral future. Data and digital technology can help to manage flows of materials and assets across the city, fostering an urban system that is regenerative and restorative.

Smart approaches to precinct and building construction, mobility/transport options (hydrogen and electric vehicles), and community involvement in clean energy initiatives (microgrids), are just some of the potential directions that need to be considered for a carbon-neutral future.


Rapid globalization, coupled with the speed of technological change, is forcing cities to shift away from traditional economic models and embrace the ‘innovation economy’. This shift has spurred the agglomeration of knowledge-intensive industries, organizations, and talent in cities across the globe, giving rise to ‘innovation districts’. Against this backdrop, smart city transformation has the potential to increase GDP per capita by 21 percent, but this value can only be reaped if cities foster a strong innovation ecosystem.

The City of Sydney local government area is an engine of economic growth and competitiveness, representing over 30 percent of the Greater Sydney economy and over 22 percent of the GDP for NSW. The city is home to some of Australia’s leading academic institutions, a global technology, and knowledge-based companies, over 27 percent of the country’s tech startups, and a highly diverse community. This ecosystem represents a fertile landscape for the establishment of innovation districts. The concentration of diverse knowledge, skills, and experience within an innovation district such as the Camperdown-Ultimo Innovation Precinct is a powerful force for the co-creation of new solutions and the commercialization of ideas. This creates a virtuous cycle of economic growth as our city strengthens its global reputation and competitiveness, supports the global expansion of local companies, and intensifies its magnetic pull on global talent.


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Murphy Morningstar
About Murphy Morningstar

I am Murphy. I take care of the overall Smart Cities logic, cities' architecture, and mission control. I am interested in the evolution of cities from the view of the highest standpoint of city management.


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