Promoting liveability, economic growth and innovation in Darwin 

Building a Smart City in Australia’s most northern capital

As the capital of Northern Australia, more than 85,000 people call Darwin home. The city’s tropical climate and vibrant lifestyle coupled with its close proximity to Asia, make Darwin a destination of choice for businesses, investors, workers, visitors and residents.

To shine a light on the city’s attributes and capitalise on emerging opportunities, local council — City of Darwin — knew they needed to move forward in a way that would enable them to actively drive a new wave of prosperity.

They needed a plan that was data-driven, people-orientated and supported by 21st century approaches to business, governance and community development. They needed a Smart City Strategy.

A smart city emerges

Having received Territory and Federal funding, in 2018 council commenced ‘Switching on Darwin’ — a $10M project designed to deliver technology to encourage innovative solutions, improve liveability and enhance community life.

While support for the project was strong, a number of challenges and barriers likely to impact delivery (and heightened by Darwin’s geographical location) emerged.

As one of the nation’s largest smart city projects, it represented an important and foundational milestone for Darwin with the project receiving a Smart City of the Year — Regional Award at the Smart Cities 2019 event. But it was just the beginning of a far bigger journey.

GWI commenced work on developing Darwin’s first Smart City Strategy — #SmartDarwin — to inform the council’s overarching smart city program.

A smart methodology for building smarter communities

Smart city strategies are about enabling governments to make better, evidenced based decisions for the benefit of their citizens. Yet to achieve this, they need to understand what problems need solving, how they can solve them, why that’s important and what matters most to their community.

To attain the right insights, we needed to ask the right questions. Getting to the heart of what matters most allowed us to develop a strategy that works to ensure opportunities to succeed are ubiquitous across the community.

What does a smart city mean for me?

Drawing on our Smart Community Methodology, we led an extensive consultation process to determine what matters to those who matter most — the people of Darwin.

As one of Australia’s most culturally diverse cities, this process was incredibly important.

We needed to ensure people could join in the journey and sharing the story in a way that would connect and resonate was crucial to generating engagement and support. This meant clearly communicating the problems we were trying to solve, how public value would be delivered and creating common understanding around the challenges faced.

Scaling a smart city

Five strategic pillars, defined by a goal towards 2021, provide a blueprint for the smart city journey.

  • Developing and connecting vibrant, safe, strategic precincts
  • Building a resilient and productive economy
  • Enabling sustainable and smart environmental management
  • Creating inclusive, smart, healthy communities that attract new residents
  • Delivering an agile, innovative and collaborative city government

The strategy is underpinned by a three-year action plan that includes high-level milestones, a list of prioritised initiatives and identifies three core stages — roll out phase 1 (2018-2019), emerging opportunities (2019-2021) and transformative opportunities (beyond 2021).

Realising the benefits

City of Darwin is currently rolling out its first phase of technology and infrastructure to support their transition to a data-driven, people-oriented city that values and enables collaboration, innovation and participation.

Phase 1 will build their capacity to collect, store, analyse and use big data that will provide the community, businesses, researchers and government agencies with greater access to open-data.

#SmartDarwin is helping the city to re-imagine its future and cement its reputation as a great place to live, work, learn, visit and do business with.  

The strategy also forms part of the landmark $200 million Darwin City Deal — a joint initiative between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and City of Darwin to deliver a 10-year plan for the City Centre to address Darwin’s unique challenges and drive economic prosperity and sustainable growth.

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