Five Australian cities are among the top 150 in the world for technology and innovation, according to a new smart cities ranking.
Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, and Woolongong all made EasyPark’s Cities of the Future Index which scored “thousands of cities around the world” based for their performance in four areas: digital life, mobility innovation, business tech infrastructure, and sustainability.
The index was split into three population groups for cities with over 5 million people, between 600,000 and 3 million people, and between 50,000 and 600,000 people.
Melbourne had the highest aggregate score of Australia’s five mentioned cities (77.82), making it the 27th best of the large cities, ahead of Busan, Taipei, Sydney, Dallas, and Osaka.
Woolongong scored lowest with a flat 50 points in the smallest population category, putting it behind New Zealand’s Christchurch and Wellington at the bottom of the list.
The Australian cities tended to perform well in similar areas, specifically innovation in healthcare and education, adoption of digital technology by both citizens and government, and cashless payments.
Likewise, the five Australian cities also struggled in similar aspects of their smart cities progress, lagging behind when it comes to business innovation, transport technology – including green transport – and green energy.
Though Adelaide’s poor score on green energy (just 57.5 out of 100) is strange given South Australia last year generated 60 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, and had brief moments where all of its energy came from wind and solar.
But EasyPark’s methodology notes that, except for US states, city green energy data was taken from national figures.
Rob Bryant, Executive Vice President APAC at construction software management company InEight, said the performance of Australia’s cities shows room for improvement when it comes to technological adoption and civil engineering.
“Right now there’s a major opportunity as we re-think how people want to live and work in cities given how much has changed in the last couple years,” he told Information Age.
“It will be worth looking at how we can connect those regional centres – like Woolongong and Newcastle in NSW or Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria – in smart, technological ways to reflect that recent change in things like flexible work arrangements.”
Bryant was optimistic that Australia’s poor performance in key areas such as green energy and smart transport infrastructure will improve given already high levels of interest from government and industry.
“There’s a good deal of investment going on right now in the energy side of things and, to a lesser extent waste management as well,” he said.
“Asset owners are quite heavily focused on sustainability, and getting energy for smart cities of the future from solar, hydro, and wind farms.
“But mobility really is a key area we need for focus on from an infrastructure point of view. There has to be more city planning that allows for pedestrianised zones, to keep vehicles out of city centres and encouraging people onto public transport – but it has to work for the people who live and work there.
“Look at London and other European cities that have established their transport infrastructure through demand over centuries. If we can take lessons from US and European cities there’s a chance we can get to the top of these lists while still being among the world’s most livable cities.”
European and US cities dominated much of the EasyPark list, although the likes of Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo scored very well in the largest population category.
Scandanavian countries scored especially well in the small and medium population categories – largely thanks to green energy use and high levels of internet connectivity among business, government, and citizens.
“Looking at urban areas with between 600,000 and 3 million inhabitants, 50 percent of the top 10 cities are in Scandinavia,” said Johan Birgersson, CEO of EasyPark Group.
“This is also the case for cities with between 50,000 and 600,000 inhabitants, where 90 percent of the top 10 are from these countries.
“It is clear that Scandinavian nations are doing all they can to provide sustainable and liveable environments for their citizens.”