Investing in smart cities makes cents

There’s been a lot of banter in Australia recently about ‘smart cities’, particularly following the Government’s announcement last year that a A$50 million competitive Smart Cities Program would be established.

But while our politicians may spout the merits of Australia becoming a ‘smarter’, knowledge-based economy, they’re failing to put their money where their mouths are and are still intent on backing the flailing resource sector. Cue the Labor Government in Queensland supporting the A$20 billion Adani coal mine – a project that would destroy the Great Barrier Reef, which Deloitte Access Economics recently valued at A$56 billion with an economic contribution of A$6.4 billion per year, while only providing roughly 1400 jobs. Add to that, it’s expected that coal production from the mine would be so great it would drive down the global price of coal and reduce royalties and taxes from other Australian mines.

The Great Barrier Reef is valued at $56 billion – almost 3 times greater than the proposed coal mine project that would destroy it

Let’s compare that with a project taking flight in Victoria. The Australian Education City (AEC) is a $A30 billion education and technology export project, approximately 30 kilometres south of Melbourne’s CBD, which is estimated by PwC to create 94,000 permanent jobs in education, research and technology. The city has the potential to house between 80,000 and 100,000 people in more than 30,000 mostly medium-density dwellings, which are likely to be self-contained, solar-powered, biomass-generated. The AEC would also be the world’s first fully ‘cognitive city’ – everything connected via the internet with data managed by artificial intelligence – a model for the decentralisation of housing and transport in Melbourne and Sydney.

The $30 billion Australian Education City project would generate 94,000 permanent jobs compared to 1464 jobs on offer at the Adani coal mine

The project has attracted discussions with IBM, Telstra, Cisco and Honeywell and would be the first technology project with the scale to rival the Australian resources sector. It would also set Australia up as a globally significant exporter of education and technology.

Australia’s growth as a knowledge-based economy and the prosperity this offers, goes hand in hand with the growth of our cities and the regions surrounding them. Knowledge-based industries rely on the successful concentration of industries and organisations in particular locations, which is why the AEC is a great model. Let’s hope, the Australian Government quickly wakes up to the merits in backing projects like these over the Adanis, which in comparison makes a lot less cents.



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