Being Smart for the Local Community, with Khal Asfour – Mayor of the City of Canterbury Bankstown

SmartCityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode68 KhalAsfourHello #smartfriends! This week we are going to release one episode every day Monday to Friday to celebrate Smart Cities Week. This first episode of the Smart City Podcast this week is with Mayor Khal Asfour, who is the Mayor of City of Canterbury-Bankstown. I had a really great conversation with the mayor about what the Smart City concept means to him, which is about solving real problems for the community and also about making government processes more efficient and providing savings to the community. The mayor shares insights on the trip he recently took to the US to look at Smart Cities, and what he’s brought back to Australia, as well as the Canterbury-Bankstown roadmap that has just been released and the importance of having a strategy. We also talk about some of the other projects and initiatives the council is working on as well as emerging trends, including foundational processes and opening up the data. The mayor is also very keen to collaborate across the different disciplines and with other councils as well.

Listen Here:

What we discuss in this episode:

  • The Mayor’s background on local council and what sparked his interest in the Smart Community space
  • What Digital Equity is and why it’s so important to the Council of Canterbury-Bankstown
  • The purpose of a Smart City or Smart Community and the reason we need to keep purpose and readiness front of mind in the conversation
  • The problems facing local councils and how Smart concepts can offer solutions
  • How Australia is embracing this concept so far
  • The roadmap Canterbury-Bankstown has put together and the need for strategic planning
  • The three main categories Canterbury-Bankstown is focusing on with their projects going forward
  • The Mayor’s thoughts on how we can better integrate across different disciplines and organisations
  • Some key takeaways from the Mayor’s Smart Cities tour in the US
  • The need for connectedness and engagement with community in a variety of ways
  • Foundational processes that are underpinned by open data as an emerging trend

Quotes:

I’ve always looked for things that we can do as an organisation and as a level of government to help our community, and last year I was lucky enough to go on a Smart City tour to the United States, and I got to see some of the real benefits…and it really did drive home to me the importance of being able to keep up with technology, and also how data and technology can really help the way we run our organisation and hopefully deliver good things for our community for today, and importantly for the future generations.

[Digital Equity is] to make sure that everybody comes along for the ride and that everybody has the same access and there isn’t a division between those who can afford access and those who can’t.

[A Smart City] is doing things more efficiently…for the betterment of the community, to make our residents lives easier, and if that’s through technology then so be it. We’re not doing this so we can have the shiniest new toy on the block.

[A Smart City means] an organisation being more efficient, that saves money in the long term and that money can be reinvested into services to the community; [it also means] our community coming on board and for us to be able to be as ready as we can be for any change in technology that comes our way.

We have some real problems as a city, and cities across Sydney and across the world have problems in relation to waste, in relation to the change in climate, and energy… These are all examples of problems that we know exist and we need to see how technology and data can help us fix those things. That’s why Smart Cities are so important when you do it on a city-wide basis, because we can really tackle some problems.

I think it’s important that we embrace the Smart City concept because the benefits for everybody are unrealised at the moment, but it’s something that there is definitely going to be a benefit in for our community.

If we can save our residents some money, if we can reinvest any savings we make and at the same time do it in a way that’s better for the planet, that’s definitely something we should investigate and invest in.

10.24 I really want Canterbury-Bankstown to be a digital city, a resilient city, and I want us to be comfortable and understanding of technology and data. And all that needs to be done as a community, it can’t be just the Council doing it on its own, or academia on its own, it’s about collaboration. It’s about making sure that we’re all talking to each other, that there’s the right amount of support and investment from federal and state governments, and therefore, then Australia as a nation will be equalling other [places] across the globe.

The way that we’ve been doing things has been the same for the last 10, 20, 30 years, and technology has advanced now and I think we need to recognise that but also embrace that. I think there are better ways we can do the rubbish pick up, there are better ways we can police double parking around schools, there are better ways to save on energy costs with lighting. The technology is there, I think we need to embrace it, invest in it, trial it, pilot it and see how it works with our community.

I really do think that if we were to work in isolation it would be to the detriment of our community and to our organisation, and to our vision and aims and principles. So it really is important that we continue to work with everybody that we can, bring our community along, talk to professors and industry leaders and people running government departments, and hopefully we can all go on this ride together.

Links:

The City Possible model run by MasterCard

City of Canterbury-Bankstown website, Facebook and Twitter

Smart CB City website

The CB Smart City Roadmap and information about potential projects

Connect:

Connect with Mayor Khal Asfour on Facebook or via email at khal.asfour@cbcity.nsw.gov.au

Connect with me via email: zoe@thesmartcitypodcast.com

Connect via Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

The Smart City Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

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