Voices from Accenture Public Service


In my previous post, I explored why there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to smart cities in urban and regional Australia. Every city/town needs to find its own unique factor to build and deliver tangible value to citizens.  

Recently, our conversations with city leaders have revolved around smart cities, economic development and innovation. The key question seems to be how these elements fit together and how to develop an investment regime to work effectively across all the three areas.  

I call it the triple helix model for a city, as each of these individual strands needs to work with the others to strengthen the city in terms of liveability and attractiveness for investment.  

The market treats smart cities as utilising new technologies and capabilities to deliver better services and experiences to citizens; economic development as the ability to attract start-ups/new businesses to the city and innovation as the potential to bring new capabilities/skills to support the earlier two strands.   

Local Government Authorities (LGA) across Australia face the challenge of supporting all three strands and building a profile of their own city/town. And, of course, the challenges and needs are varied between urban, semi-urban and regional cities/towns.  

While we would all love a standard template to follow, there isn’t a silver bullet answer to this question. Instead, I would like to propose what some may call a slightly controversial approach. As a first step, LGAs should start bringing these three areas under a single leader to ensure there is a unified view across the executive arm. This is vital to make sure the collective strategy adopted by a LGA clearly considers the investments, trade-offs, and partnerships. 

Secondly, I believe the city needs to focus on getting the “double strand” model to work before moving towards the true triple helix. Now, what do I mean by that. The city/town needs to decide on whether to lead with smart cities or economic development. While I am sure to hear this is not an ‘either/or’ question (and neither am I suggesting that it is), my suggestion is to make one of them the clear priority over the other in the medium term. For example, if economic development is a priority, LGAs need to understand the right industries and capabilities to attract along with developing the right ecosystem to thrive in the city/town. On the other hand, with smart city initiatives, the focus will have to be on avoiding the “PoC Spiral” by ensuring the solutions developed are scaled for the entire city and deliver measurable value. Whatever the choice a city/town makes, it is vital that the political arm is intimately involved and buys into the decision and thoroughly supports it. 

Finally, build a clear narrative around the strategy adopted. Tell a compelling story! It is extremely important that the city has a compelling story, and everyone can get behind. This would ensure gaining the trust and buy-in of citizens, developing a clear brand position about the city externally – both with other government agencies and private organisations –and ensuring all other activities undertaken by the city can serve as a catalyst to support the strategy.  

I believe there will be a point in the journey for the city/town when the “double strand” approach achieves critical mass and the moment is right to bring all three components together in a coherent, symbiotic “triple helix” model. At this stage, the city would have developed considerable maturity both in terms of capability and enablers such as procurement, policies, standards etc. 

I would be interested to hear your thoughts and views on this triple helix challenge and how councils should approach it. https://www.accenture.com/transformingAUcities. 

See this post on LinkedIn: Unravelling the triple helix: Smart cities, economic development and innovation.

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