UNSW joins $2.2m State Government initiative to build ‘smart spaces’ in regional NSW

UNSW Sydney will join the Department of Regional NSW and the University of Sydney in a new partnership to help regional councils become ‘smart spaces’, through custom-designed training, digital tools and strategy development support.

The $2.2 million ‘Smart Regional Spaces: Ready, Set, Go!’ initiative is aimed at extending the NSW Government’s smart cities movement into rural and regional NSW. It’s designed to ensure regional communities can reap the benefits associated with ‘smart place’ initiatives.

Underpinned by the NSW Government’s Smart Places Strategy, the project will create resources to help regional councils to roll out smart technologies and data-driven solutions suitable for their region.

Addressing the digital divide

The project is co-led by Associate Professor Kate Bishop and Senior Lecturer Dr Christine Steinmetz from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.

A/Prof Bishop said the project will address the substantial divide in digital inclusion between Australians living in rural and urban areas.

“There has long been a digital divide between the state’s urban and rural communities. This partnership will enable all NSW communities to participate in the smart places movement,” A/Prof. Bishop said.

The new funding will enable regional areas to capitalise on the social, economic and environmental benefits associated with well-designed and well-implemented smart place initiatives.

“Local councils need effective, affordable and relevant smart systems to inform decisions related to open-space and asset management, urban design and public infrastructure,” Dr Steinmetz said. “We will deliver a suite of digital tools, templates and training modules to help regional councils develop their own smart places strategy, embracing new technology and data to improve liveability and sustainability in their region.”

Examples of smart place initiatives include sensor street lighting for energy efficiency, real-time bus schedule data on digital screens or apps, and smart sensors to monitor use of public amenities such as picnic tables, barbecues, parking and rubbish bins. By collecting data on how people use different public spaces, councils will be able to make informed decisions related to urban design and public infrastructure.

Professor Claire Annesley, Dean of UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture said the partnership and funding reflects the university’s goal of improving the lives of people across the globe, but most importantly, at home.

“This partnership is an example of UNSW’s commitment to transforming the lives of people in regional NSW, with the smart places movement offering social, economic, and environmentally sustainable advantages,” Prof. Annesley said.

Regional communities to benefit

Minister for Local Government Wendy Tuckerman said 91 regional councils in NSW could benefit from the initiative.

“This innovative partnership with regional councils, USyd and UNSW will see them connect with industry experts, empower investment in new technology and data-driven solutions to help address the substantial divide in digital inclusion between Australians living in rural and urban areas,” Mrs Tuckerman said.

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said digital uplift and inclusion is a key pillar of the Smart Places Strategy, especially making sure regional communities can take advantage of emerging smart technology.

“In partnership with local councils, the Smart Places Acceleration Program continues to deliver smart technological capabilities to fix problems that people are facing every day,” Mr Dominello said.

Smart Regional Spaces: Ready, Set, Go! is funded through the Digital Restart Fund, as part of the Smart Places Acceleration Program. To take part in the project, or for further information visit: www.nsw.gov.au/connectregionalnsw.