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New research cuts through the chatter to decode our needs

14 June 2018
Ground-breaking project to create smart cities of the future
Innovative research by the University of Sydney is set to transform our built environments. Trending topics will be captured and used to inform policy making through the federal government's Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

With the support of the Australian Government through the Smart Cities and Suburbs program, the School of Architecture, Design and Planning’s Smart Urbanism Lab is researching a new project -  Participatory Local Government: Enabling Community Participation for Logan and Canada Bay – that is breaking new ground to develop smart cities.

Social media has changed the way we engage in all aspects of our lives and now more than ever, we are more connected and have greater engagement with urban issues. As a result, governments need new and advanced means to understand the needs of its citizens.

"The program reflects our commitment to research excellence and strategy of engaging in opportunities raised through technological advancements.”
Dr. Michael Spence Vice-Chancellor and Principal University of Sydney

The Smart Urbanism Lab at the University of Sydney identified the need for a human-centred design approach when planning built environments. Citizens are using online channels to engage on urban topics, however these conversations are widely spread, unstructured and often contain irrelevant noise. Currently there are no clear means for government and industry to access and analyse these conversations.

The project undertaken by the Smart Urbanism Lab will develop new algorithms and tools to capture this information, giving locals a say when it comes to urban development and allowing local councils to capture these online opinions to improve decision-making. Ultimately the research could be implemented across Australia to improve the liveability, productivity and sustainability of urban areas.

“We are grateful to receive this grant supporting research that plays an important role in the forward-thinking of those at the intersection of community, industry and government. The program reflects our commitment to research excellence and strategy of engaging in opportunities raised through technological advancements,” Dr. Michael Spence Vice-Chancellor and Principal University of Sydney.

Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, the Hon. Paul Fletcher, said the project aimed to increase community involvement in the planning and evaluation of major projects in the cities of Logan in Queensland and Canada Bay in Sydney.

“This project will provide real-time analysis of local attitudes towards major urban projects through a user- friendly platform that will help local governments keep across issues and prioritise their efforts,” Mr Fletcher said.

University of Sydney project team (L to R): Professor Robyn Dowling, Dr Somwrita Sarkar, Dr Tooran Alizadeh, Associate Professor Martin Tomitsch, Ms Sandy Burgoyne, Dr Luke Hespanhol

The research will focus on four planning projects within the two council areas. Research in the City of Canada Bay will examine feedback around the transformation of Parramatta Road, with a second initiative informing the Five Dock revitalisation.  Research in Logan City will examine feedback around the master planning for Cronulla Park and also examine feedback on the Yarrabilba community development.

“We are excited to be partnering with the City of Canada Bay and Logan City Council for this project,” said Dr. Tooran Alizadeh Director of Urban Design, the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

“Forward thinking, engaged Local Government is vital to ensuring citizens are part of smart urban decision-making processes.”

“This project, aiming to enhance community participation in the planning and evaluation of major urban projects, is good news for the residents of our City,” City of Canada Bay Mayor Angelo Tsirekas said. 

“Social media and online communication has changed the way citizens engage in all aspects of their lives, from shopping and education to how their communities are being planned and developed.”

Projects such as these are building important relationships between the research community, industry and government to improve the lives of citizens through the application of smart tools and technologies.

Sally Quinn

Media and PR Adviser (Creative Arts)

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