Smart City data challenge: how local governments can unlock data

The Smart City data challenge

As local governments strive to deliver better services, cut costs and ensure their economies and communities are productive and vibrant, smarter decisions are vital. Data must drive these decisions, however, for most it will take a new way of thinking – becoming ‘data champions’ – to turn data into actions.

Piers Hogarth-Scott

Partner, KPMG Digital Delta and National Leader, Internet of Things

KPMG Australia


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City skyscrapers at dusk

Many leading councils in Australia are developing their Smart City plans to enable their overarching strategy and meet their operational and community challenges.

In this report, we examine one of the key pillars of the foundations needed for a successful Smart City transformation – data. Councils able to capture, share and convert data into practical insights and new services will drive the most positive impact for their communities.

Unlocking the opportunities of data relies on leadership and culture. The best results come from an agile, incremental approach of trial and error that engages the whole of government – not just the analytics or IT department.

Being data champions and implementing a five-step ‘ASSET’ approach (Accessible, Structured, Secure, Empowering, Trusted) can help local governments to improve efficiencies, service delivery and accountability, and get them on track to creating competitive, attractive Smart Cities.

The ASSET path to data governance

Accessible: Sharing data enables a common understanding of issues and collaborative responses. Building a digital infrastructure that breaks down silos between departments, and enables city-wide aggregation of data, is key.

Structured: It is important to find consistent and compatible approaches to data input, sharing and analysis to obtain maximum benefit. Structured data refers to data that has been processed and rendered in a standard, machine-readable format. Applying standards enables interoperability across data generators, data publishers and data consumers.

Secure: Robust security measures must be embedded within a city’s digital infrastructure. As many breaches have demonstrated, relegating cyber security to the IT department alone is not feasible. Instead, ‘security by design’ is a stronger approach – with security controls incorporated into digital infrastructure right from the beginning.

Empowering: While data analytics can provide a more granular understanding of issues affecting citizens, opening up city data to the public can empower citizens to co-create innovative solutions.

Trusted: Building trust between local government and its citizens is integral to establishing a strong digital infrastructure and unlocking data insights.

Three steps to kick-start a Smart City data strategy

  1. A first step is to set a top-down agenda of data-driven governance. This requires a city data policy that helps to institutionalise the use of data by defining common goals, scope and requirements.
  2. The next step is to build a business case to invest in data and analytics for internal use. A smaller project with a clear return on investment is a good place to start.
  3. A third step is establishing a business case for offering open data, exploring how it can benefit the broader community.

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