SCP E82 Bringing Science Fiction to Life, with Shara Evans

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode82_SharaEvansIn this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a fascinating conversation with Shara Evans, Technologist, Futurist, Keynote Speaker and Self-Proclaimed Sci-Fi Geek. Shara and I discuss her background, how she transitioned from technologist to futurist, and what sparked her interest in the Smart Community space. We have a really interesting chat about all kinds of futuristic technologies and some great examples of Smart concepts, including self-repairing cities using fleets of autonomous robots and drones.

Shara shares how this is already being implemented to various degrees today in a range of places around the world, and the future of this technology. We cover driverless cars, drones and hyper loops, and the opportunities and challenges these technologies pose to Australia, as well as how Shara sees Australia embracing Smart concepts. We also discuss the future of work and the new categories of jobs that we will see as our homes and cities become Smarter. We finish off talking about the emerging trend of security, privacy, ethics and the impact of virtual digital assistants, such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa and other similar devices.

A note on this episode: there are a few clicks and noises in the background in the second half of this episode, so please forgive us for those. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

You can now support the Smart Community Podcast via Patreon, at If you become a Patron, you’ll get a special episode each month exclusive to supporters. If you would like to feature on the podcast, you can also head to Patreon where you can sponsor an episode. There are options for a full featured episode or adding a promo for your company or an event coming up, with once off and monthly options available. Thanks so much for your support for the podcast. It is my dream for the podcast to be self-sustaining so it can continue to be produced no matter the circumstances.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Shara’s background as a technologist and how she transitioned into a futurist keynote speaker
  • What sparked Shara’s interest in Smart Communities and some fascinating examples of sensors being used in cities already
  • Self-repairing cities and how drones and robot fleets might/already are being used
  • Why becoming Smarter is so important, especially in this age of growing population and urban migration
  • Hyperloop and the potential it offers to Australia
  • How future transport technology will revolutionise the way we think about work, commuting and wellbeing
  • Connected and autonomous electric vehicles and the impact this will have on infrastructure, planning and industries that revolve around our current traffic and automobile industries
  • How Shara thinks Australia is embracing Smart concepts, including some interesting examples
  • Why we need to pay more attention to solar power
  • Drones, flying taxis and jobs of the future
  • Security, privacy, ethics and the impact of virtual digital assistants like Google Home


“You might think of Smart Cities in terms of things like sensors or the Internet of Things, but then you also have to draw in to the picture robots, driverless cars, drones and next generation transport like Hyperloop, and all sorts of other things that make a city really Smart.”

“A Smart City is one that has deployed sensors and controllers in various ways that give them real time insights that they can take action on…but it goes well beyond [sensors], it goes to infrastructure maintenance, pedestrian traffic and building temperatures and using green energy, whether it be solar or wind, and getting ready for electric vehicles.”

“Part of the idea with a self-repairing city is that it will be like the white-blood cells in our body, and having a city that behaves almost like a living organism. These little tiny robots will basically wipe out the bad bacteria, the city defects, as they are detected.”

“I think using technology to make increasingly more crowded cities liveable, more efficient and more energy efficient is crucial to humanity because our population is growing. Demographers predict that we’ll have about 9.7 billion people on the planet but he year 2050…and by 2025 60% of the world’s population will live in cities.”

“Imagine being able to buy a nice house or apartment in a regional area but still being able to work in a big city [commuting via Hyperloop]. Such a game changer!”

“What many people are not aware of is that a lot of the vehicles that are commercially available today already have semi-autonomous features. Things like self-parking or cruise control assistance—that’s really a robot driving your car.”

“We’re going to see 3 dimensional vehicle to vehicle networks, highways in the skies, very shortly too. It will be behind the vehicle networks that are on the ground, because I think it will take a while for flying taxis and drone use to really become mainstream, but it’s bound to happen. Our skies are about to change!”

“There are a lot of jobs that are being enabled by technology…Automation, robots and artificial intelligence are going to impact just about every industry and just about every human on the planet. It’s going to happen but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be out of a job. But the boring, repetitive parts of your job may very well be automated and you’ll be spending your time doing the more interesting parts of your job.”

“What people do not realise is that once these [virtual digital assistants] devices are turned on, they are always on, they are always listening for their keywords, the companies behind these devices are recording everything in the background, in many cases transcribing it and in some cases reselling it too. It covers every aspect of your life and not just your personal life but your business life.”



Connect with Shara via her website and or via social media on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E81 Sharing Smart Stories, with Sarah Wray


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a great conversation with Sarah Wray, the editor at Smart Cities World, an online publication covering all the latest news and trends around Smart Cities and Smart Communities. Sarah and I discuss her background in writing for telecommunications and how that led her to this Smart space, as well as why she believes it’s important that the Smart concepts don’t get kept only in the cities but that small towns and regional communities can benefit from them too. We talk about how the UK is embracing the Smart concepts, and a number of really interesting projects that are happening both in the UK and globally. Sarah and I also talk about how to better integrate across disciplines, and the emerging trends of cybersecurity and of Smarts being visible, but not secret. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

You can now support the Smart Community Podcast via Patreon, at

If you become a Patron, you’ll get a special episode each month exclusive to supporters. If you would like to feature on the podcast, you can also head to Patreon where you can sponsor an episode. There are options for a full featured episode or adding a promo for your company or an event coming up, with once off and monthly options available. Thanks so much for your support for the podcast. It is my dream for the podcast to be self-sustaining so it can continue to be produced no matter the circumstances.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Sarah’s background in writing for telecommunications and how that led her to being interested in and involved with Smart Cities
  • What a Smart City is to Sarah and why she believes it’s an important area
  • How the UK is embracing Smart concepts
  • Projects Sarah is currently researching or writing about and examples of Smart concepts being implemented around the world
  • The importance of open data for integrating across disciplines, governments, industries
  • The PR problem with Smart Cities and why tech should be invisible but not secret
  • The emerging trends of cybersecurity and privacy and why we should be discussing it in more depth


For me it’s a city that’s always looking to improve, to become a better place to live or visit. I think now cities have a lot more tools to better understand the city and what’s going on, and so they can perhaps make more informed decisions to make those improvements.

I don’t think it’s all about the technology; sometimes the Smartest solution will be very low or no tech….more playgrounds or green spaces or how do we use all these empty buildings. Homelessness is a huge issue in many cities and that has to be part of becoming Smarter. But the solution isn’t aways technological.

I’m from a really quite small town and I’d hate to see somewhere like that be left behind even further. I would like to see places like that also benefit from all this innovation and help to be moved ahead and help the people there.

In our research we found that although 80% of people who we surveyed said they think they have a good or fairly good understanding of [blockchain] technology, concerns about understanding the technology came out as the number one challenge for moving ahead with it.”

“When I tell my friends and family about what my job is, usually they kind of look confused and sometimes concerned. I get a lot of comments about Big Brother when it comes to Smart Cities and I find this hugely worrying, because a lot of us live in cities that are striving to become Smarter in various ways, so I think there’s kind of a public image problem.”

“Cybersecurity is really going up the agenda, but often it feels like something, along with privacy, that cities say ‘yes we have that covered’ but the details are a little bit scant.”



Connect with Sarah via LinkedIn or the Smart Cities World website. You can also find Smart Cities World on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @SmartCitiesW

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E80 Embracing future ways of working through intentional design, with Andrew Pettifer and Steve Coster

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode80 ArupThis episode of the Smart Community Podcast is brought to you by Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists, working across every aspect of today’s built environment.

In this episode, I had a brilliant conversation with Andrew Pettifer, the NSW Region Leader of Arup, and Steve Coster, the Managing Director at international design practice, HASSELL. We have a fascinating discussion about the impact of technology, design and leadership on the way we work, and how this fits in the Smart Community arena.

Arup has just opened three new buildings for their workforce in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore, and we talk about the guiding principals for these buildings, and why it is so important to have this forward thinking approach rather than just leasing an existing office building. I have visited both the Sydney and Melbourne sites and I must say, the intentional design really does make a difference.

Andrew and Steve explain the process of planning, designing and implementing such a Smart and sustainable building.

As well as talking about the different ways design, space and technology are used, we also discuss the power of workplace culture, the importance of giving people flexible work choices, and the need for leadership to create high-trust environments for staff. We finish our conversation discussing the emerging trends in the ways we work and how work will change into the future.

If you would like to sponsor an episode of the Smart Community Podcast, please send me an email to and we can discuss the options. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:


What we cover in this episode:

  • Andrew and Steve’s respective backgrounds and how they each became interested in this space
  • How the way we work fits into the Smart Community arena, and what Arup is doing do embrace future ways of working
  • About the new buildings, and the guiding principles that brought them to life
  • The planning and design process through to the implementation of the new buildings 
  • The importance of creating high trust, high respect environments and why the physical spaces are so important to representing and enhancing the culture 
  • How sustainability was incorporated into the design nd operation of the new buildings 
  • The Smarts incorporated into the building
  • Emerging trends in the way we work




Connect with Steve via the HASSELL website or email 

Connect with Andrew via LinkedIn and Twitter, or email

Connect with me via email: 

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E79: Smart Shared Mobility, with Alex Girard

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode79 Alex Girard


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have a really great conversation with Alex Girard, the CTO of Liftango. Alex tells us about his background and what he’s passionate about, and also what a Smart City means to him. We also talk about what’s happening in France and Australia in terms of transportation as a pillar for society, and the differences between the two. Alex then shares about what Liftango does, including carpooling and on-demand bus solutions. We then talk about how open data is a means of integrating across the different disciplines. We finish up talking about while the spotlight is on EVs and AVs, electric and autonomous vehicles, we need to start talking about how they fit into the shared mobility space. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Alex’s background creating ride sharing apps and how that led him to being involved with Liftango
  • What a Smart City means to Alex and why he believes it’s so important
  • The similarities and differences between Australia and France in their approach to public transportation
  • The two main projects Alex is currently working on with Liftango
  • How Liftango came to be, and how the two solutions work
  • The importance of open data for enabling integration and collaboration across different disciplines
  • The opportunities and challenges of the emerging Smart Mobility space


“A Smart City is a concept that is a series of ways to tackle and/or use technologies for more behaviours that are born from them, and to reuse them in a way that is way more efficient.”

“The obvious enabler that Liftango is leveraging is the Smart phones and the hyper-connectivity that came with it.”

“The concept of Smart Cities is going to provide a new vertical for cities to [solve] some of their problems such as congestion, such as parking issues, such as pollution, using existing or at least maturing infrastructure and maybe improving a little bit on them.”

“Compared to Europe and more specifically to France, I think Australia has something that is unique, because when we look at cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, it’s low density. Compared to a city like Paris, where the buildings are actually quite high, Sydney is actually spreading, so it’s not an easy comparison but I think Australia is doing great work to improve on their transportation, especially the public system…and that’s exactly what France is doing as well because we share some of the same beliefs that transportation is a pillar for society and [that it’s important] to give everyone the same chance.”

“[Sydney is] looking at innovative ways to solve the problems of congestion and also their kind of unique challenges in terms of geography, with the bays, the bridge.”

“Looking at the stats, Australians prefer to drive their own car [because it’s convenient] but it’s actually causing some drama [with congestion] nowadays. So things need to change and I think Smart Phones with internet is providing a very good platform to plug some good solutions such as carpooling, on demand buses and also some parking solutions, and reducing the number of cars on the road.”

“The [Liftango] car pooling solution, also known as corporate rideshare, allows any organisation—such as universities, hospitals and large businesses—to set up their own private network where every employee, staff or student will exclusively carpool with one another, thereby guaranteeing some security. We incentivise this behaviour by leaving some rewards and also locating bays in car parks.”

“[The founders of Liftango] were struggling with commuting and thought ‘there must be an app for this,’ but there wasn’t… So Kevin decided to solve this problem.”

“We select the top 10 of each company and distribute some prizes such as fuel vouchers. This way, not only do we increase engagement, but also we make sure that people actually have a good time.”

“[Data] is crucial. Data is driving decisions and with the data we accumulate, we can actually make concrete decisions not just gut feeling kind of decisions and therefore you can back up any kind of initiative with data analysis.”

“We need to create bridges between those disciplines and government agencies…The obvious one is open data, and by that I mean giving people and agencies the access to some of your data, if you’re an agency or business working in the Smart City environment.”

“I believe that it’s really hard to anticipate what other [agencies] will need, therefore you’re better off opening your [data] as much as you can to the rest of the world and let them pick whatever they believe is useful for them.”

“In our [Liftango] case I believe that the autonomous vehicle is the one that will compound very nicely with our solution.”

“Any transporation network companies, like Uber and GoCatch, make it more affordable to travel around but it’s also creating congestion, so unless we start having some shared mobility companies and to reduce the number of cars I think it’s an issue.

“I think the public transport system is ripe for an update and that’s where we [Liftango] intend to play a part. [People] are not talking enough about it, I’m sure.”


Connect with Alex via LinkedIn or email him

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E78: Smart Water Management, with Frank Burns

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode78 Frank Burns


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a great conversation with Frank Burns, President and Co-Founder of APANA, a technology company that is currently applying its IoT and Prescriptive Analytics suites to solve problems with water use inside the built environment. Frank shares his background in waste water management, his passion for eliminating water waste and contamination in the commercial, industrial and institutional sector, and how it sparked his interest in the Smart Cities/Smart Communities space. We discuss the way APANA uses technology and data for Smart Water Management, and why it’s so important not only in individual companies but at the city level. Frank shares his thoughts on how this is currently happening in the US, the tug of war between the tech-focused approach and the bottom-up approach to Smart cities and why meaningful measurement is the key to integration and collaboration across sectors and disciplines. We finish our chat talking about water being the emerging trend that we’re not talking about enough, and how using IOT measurement and data analysis can be a security system against mechanical failure and human error in the Smart Water space. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Frank’s passion for eliminating water waste from the use profile in the built environment
  • How he became involved in this space 20 years ago
  • What sparked Frank’s interest in the Smart City space
  • The technology Frank’s company uses for Smart Water Management
  • Why reducing the unnecessary water use and contamination in cities is the lowest hanging fruit in regards to reducing energy consumption
  • The tug of war between the tech-focused approach and the bottom-up approach to Smart Cities in the US
  • Projects Frank and his company APANA are currently working on
  • Why we need to measure—and have measurements that are accurate and at a resolution that’s meaningful—in order to collaborate and integrate
  • The emerging trend of Smart Water Management and why Frank things it should be the new recycling
  • Using IOT measurement and data analysis as a security system against mechanical failure and human error


I am passionate about eliminating water waste from the use profile in the built environment, and I got into this because I designed and built waste water plants for commercial centres.

We started seeing the waste water plants were receiving a lot more water in some locations than the design had projected, and we began to look up stream into the buildings on that campus and realised there were a number of mechanical failures and human waste activities that created a lot more water use than was necessary.

You can see things when you measure in high resolution in real time, you can see all kinds of stuff…all of the failure points.

Cities own all these [water meter] assets and they’re not connected. They’re using it primarily for the purpose of billing water. If you measured in a really meaningful way at one-minute intervals and had the technology to process that data and make good use of it, it’s a whole other level of value…not just waste control.

[A Smart City] is where the things that make sense are connected, and the data is useful. You can monitor and measure all kinds of things, but a lot of it doesn’t make sense to do. A Smart City is taking the stuff that means something and getting that data back so that it can be processed, turned around and made useful to either the automation system for the people who can act on it, from either an immediate intervention or general reporting perspective.

We see a tremendous potential for making water systems significantly Smarter…You could connect every house, but the things that really make sense immediately in side of most first world cities is the commercial, industrial and institutional sector properties because they have tremendous water use and that’s where most of the problems are.

The number 1 consumer of electricity in most first-world cities is the municipal waste water treatment plant. We tend not to think about it [because it’s out of sight, out of mind]. From a Smart City perspective, I think the lowest lying fruit as far as built environment is to reduce the unnecessary water use and contamination that hits our waste water plants. That would have an immediate reduction on our energy consumption at the largest energy user in most of our cities. The Smart City approach to Smart Water Management is the most practical, fastest way to accomplish that.

We call it manage water like inventory, because people understand how to manage inventory really well. We out to be managing water like that. And so we want to push that paradigm from a city level, where it will have an immediate and lasting reduction of the waste profile. It’s the easiest way for us to reduce the energy consumption by capacity in our distribution and wastewater treatment facilities.

At the end of the day, the Smart City is basically management. You’re collecting data, so you can make sense of it, and you can take some sort of action and control—manage—and get a result that is beneficial for the community.

You’ll have measurement that will manage and keep it transparent, and when things go sideways, people will know. And if they decide not to fix it, there’s an enforcement mechanism that will be enabled that will help the community contain the waste. When you measure and report in a way that is meaningful, humans tend to respond really quickly.

We need measurement that is accurate and at a resolution that is meaningful…When there’s no hiding and there’s total transparency and it’s obvious to everybody because it’s there, then collaboration and all of the discussion points becomes pretty simple.

I think eliminating water waste, unnecessary water use and unnecessary contamination should be the new solid waste recycling. People are vigilant about recycling…but when you look at how water is used, and the impact, it’s out of sight and out of mind. We haven’t even applied our brain to that part of our resource consumption and impact on the environment.

If we measure water in a meaningful way and connect it at scale, it’s very inexpensive, but it provides this security against [operational failure]…you end up with an ability to know what’s happening, pinpoint it, classify it…and guide somebody on what to do when it happens. That’s what a Smart City will look like.


Connect with Frank via the Apana website

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E77 The Power of Leadership and Technology in Smart Communities, with Jonathan Reichental

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode77 Jonathan Reichental


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a fascinating conversation with Jonathan Reichental, the Chief Information Officer for the City of Palo Alto, California. Jonathan shared a bit about his background in technology, why he loves the way technology can make positive things happen for individuals and the world. He talks about what it’s been like being, in his words, a bit of a maverick from the private sector, now being a public servant and working for local government.

Jonathan shares how the City of Palo Alto is working on digitisation and the high degree of importance they place on collaboration with the community. We talk about what a Smart City or Smart Community means to Jonathan, why it’s so important and how being in the opening chapters of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating a lot of change for all of us.

Jonathan also explains why cities or urban locations are the future, not only in terms of where most humans will live going forwards, but also in terms of solving the big problems facing our planet, such as climate change. We talk about some of the projects Palo Alto is currently working on and why decision making and leadership is key to better integrating across disciplines, industries, governments and academia.

We finish off discussing emerging trends, including the human trends of the digital divide and human rights, and tech trends such as blockchain, AI and data. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it!

Don’t forget to check out the Urban Motion Conference in Brisbane

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Jonathan’s background in the technology industry and business
  • How he made the switch from the private to the public sector to become a technologist within government
  • What sparked Jonathan’s interest in the Smart space and how Palo Alto decided to become a digital city
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the many, rapid changes facing humanity and the planet
  • Why the future of every human on the planet is in the urban context
  • How the US is embracing Smart concepts both nationally but also regionally and locally
  • Ways Palo Alto prioritises and involves community in collaboration, and why results are more important than names and terms
  • The power of leadership and decision making in integrating across disciplines, industries, government and with community
  • The emerging trends of blockchain and AI technology transforming the way we do things like democracy and medicine
  • The potential of data in cities  once we start to really embrace it the way the private sector has


I think we should transform the analog ways in which City works—all this paperwork and inefficiency—and push as much as we can the capability to smartphones and online and get rid of all the filing cabinets and the abundance of paperwork we have at City Hall. Make things more efficient, more accurate, lower cost and create a better experience.

We have so many difficult problems to solve. They’re interesting problems. And we now recognise that technology is going to be the heart of solving those problems, so now we have a vendor space that’s beginning to step up and help solve some of those problems. This is the next stage of digitisation…the intersection of digitisation and hardware.

We’re in the opening chapters of a revolution, a fourth industrial revolution. The way in which the world enters this revolution will look completely different on the other side…Whatever it is, and there’s going to be more of it, we’re in a great big transformation and an individual and an organisation is not going to be able to sit this out.

[A Smart Community] is a response to some very big challenges, with technology at the centre…It’s not business as usual. We can’t respond in the way we did 20-30 years ago, it just doesn’t cut it, it’s going to be ineffective. We have to make bold decisions, big decisions, some major investments. We’ve got to do it regionally, nationally and now globally.

The future of everyone is in an urban context. We’re moving into cities now 2 million people per week. By the middle of the 21st Century 70 – 80% of all humans, of which there will be about 9 billion, will live in a city. Our future belongs to cities, so if we’re going to live in cities, which is looks like we are, we’re going to want clean air and water.

Our cities are where the climate has been changed, and cities are where we’re going to fix the climate crisis if we have any chance at fixing it…This matters to every single one of us. There’s nobody on the planet who gets to say, “This isn’t my problem.”

It’s cities that matter, so it’s Mayors that are going to be having the biggest impact on the climate crisis and the way in which their cities operate. Now we don’t live in a vacuum, we have to work with our state and federal colleagues, [but] the power to influence the future is now fully embedded in cities. That’s where GDP is created, that’s where the climate crisis will be fixed, that’s where we will solve and take care of air quality and water quality and energy.

There’s nothing we can do today that isn’t benefited from collaboration. There’s nothing we can do in the absence of collaboration. We’re all in this together. We succeed here in Palo Alto because we are so well integrated between the public servants and the community members and also with the private sector and academia and other NGOs.

For the everyday community member, [the term Smart] is less important to them [than results]. They just want to know that we’re using contemporary technology, we’re innovative in how we do things, we’re managing costs, and we’re prioritising effectively.

The first thing is to make the decision [to integrate, collaborate]. The leadership of the community has to say ‘we are going to embrace all voices and create channels and opportunities for those voices.’ It starts there.

We [in Palo Alto] still strongly believe in the city or town hall concept: in person, get people in a room, get people up on whiteboards and around tables, figuring out together how we solve problems.

I’m a guy who has spend 30 years in technology innovation and I’m even exhausted by the rate of change and the rate of new tech. I have the greatest empathy for those who don’t spend their days thinking about technology but are impacted by it.

Collectively we have to come to an understanding that things are happening now that have greater scope, bigger impact and faster velocity. Scope, impact and velocity are all going at rates that we’ve never seen in the history of humanity.

The future is here but it’s not evenly distributed, and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to our cities.

Cities still have to discover the value of data. The private sector has acknowledged that the data they collect in legal, ethical ways is beneficial to driving success of a business. Government has been a little slower…but can start to leverage that as a real asset in moving forward, solving problems and complementing decision making.


Find the full show notes as:

Connect with Jonathan on Twitter @reichental or find his podcast ‘Drinking Wine Talking Tech’ on Apple Podcasts here

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E76 Smart Regions and Communities for the Next Generation, with Kerry Anderson

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode76 Kerry AndersonIn this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have an awesome conversation with Kerry Anderson, the founder of Operation NextGen and the author of Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s business. Kerry is passionate about sharing stories from rural and regional Australia.

Kerry tells us a little secret to start with, and also the importance of having new conversations with new people in new places. Kerry and I discuss the concept of Smart Towns and Smart Communities, and how these towns and communities have to embrace change and be willing to experiment.

Kerry then talks about the value of entrepreneurs in the region, and how complacency can affect the growth of a regional area. Kerry then shares about some of the regional conferences and events that are happening, shares some stories and tells us about Operation NextGen.

Kerry tells us about the research she completed overseas and the importance of collaboration and champions to better integrate across the different disciplines, government and industries. We talk about improving connectivity so we can embrace the gig economy in regional Australia. As always, I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we covered in this episode:

  • Why Kerry was drawn to regional areas and why she started Operation Next Gen
  • What sparked Kerry’s interest in the Smart space and the connectivity piece 
  • Kerry’s definition of a Smart Community and why she believes it’s so important for rural and regional areas
  • How Australia is embracing the concept not only in the capital cities but also in the regions
  • The Operation Next Gen program and other projects Kerry is working on
  • How Kerry works with communities with Operation Next Gen
  • The importance of business not just for our communities but for everyone’s future in Australia 
  • Kerry’s research and experiences in regional areas overseas
  • The value of collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystems and why evidence is important to support the conversations
  • Why we need to accept failure as part of the learning process and ‘have a go’
  • The challenges and opportunities of collaboration for commercialising innovative ideas 
  • The differences in collaboration approaches and abilities in regional areas 
  • Emerging trends of different models for small businesses and agriculture
  • The hidden industry of the gig economy and working from home


We’ve got to have new conversations with new people in new places.

I think a Smart Community has the ability to look at existing landscapes with fresh eyes. I am so in awe of the communities that have that ability to reinvent themselves over and over again, and many communities do. A Smart Community has to embrace change, they have to be willing to experiment, they recognise the value of entrepreneurs and they need to be able to collaborate across all sectors for the greater good, because ti’s more than just us, it’s about the future o our communities and their survival. 

I think that complacency is our biggest danger, and when we live in a global world, no-one can afford to be complacent. This is the problem: many rural communities tend to sit back and think [they’re] well established…but change is inevitable and we just need to be able to actively embrace it. Some communities are really good at doing that and others need a little bit more help to get that conversation going. 

When I go around regional Australia, there’s lots of innovative businesses operating in rural towns everywhere, and they’re not necessarily connected in the Australian space yet but they’re doing awesome stuff.

It’s so important to have these conversations so that people are part of the change. It should be led by the community for the community. 

Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs is the fundamental part of Operation Next Gen. Our whole standard of living depends on a strong business sector and that’s a big part of what I do: helping people to understand the importance of business…. Australia runs on small business, that is the backbone of our economy.

In this era of connectivity, we have rural entrepreneurs that are connecting all over the world. We should be building on that. Density doesn’t have to be in a geographic sense these days, it could be through connectivity. 

The gig economy and [people working from the home office] is almost like a hidden industry in many rural towns and I think this is a huge opportunity for regional Australia, in that we’ve got this connectivity…there are lots of people using technology to work in different ways and they’re not driving into the offices like they used to. 

[The gig economy] a new kind of working…and it requires a whole new set of skills, which is so important for our education system to pick up on.


Connect with Kerry on LinkedIn, as @kerrywords on Twitter, as @RuralEntrepreneurs on Facebook or at her website 

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