The Sunshine Coast has joined regions and cities from around the world on the Smart21 Community list for 2019 – the fifth time in six years that our region has been recognised as a global leader in smart technology and innovation.
The announcement was made by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) at its fifth annual Next Gen Tech Conference held in New York.
The Sunshine Coast is one of only three Australian communities in the Smart21 for 2019 and remains in contention for the prestigious designation of an Intelligent Community Top7.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said to be named a 2019 Smart21 community was an outstanding achievement and testament to the Sunshine Coast Council’s commitment to the delivery of a healthy, smart, creative region.
The Smart21 are selected from hundreds of submissions, which are reviewed over an eight-month process by ICF analysts led by former Cisco executive and Westchester County (New York) CIO, Dr Norman Jacknis.
Each submission must provide quantitative and qualitative data to demonstrate the delivery of initiatives aligned to the six intelligent community indicators - broadband, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital equality, sustainability and advocacy.
“Being part of the Smart21 demonstrates that we are delivering world class initiatives, across all of the six intelligent community indicators and ones that will benefit the community well into the future,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“The International Broadband Submarine Cable, which is set to be operational by mid-2020, is just one example which will further assist us to build a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The 2019 theme of infinite learning is consistent with our objectives for our region.
“The skills required in the workforce are changing and to meet the changing landscape there needs to be programs that can support the young and old as they manage their way through that transition.
“As a council we support a number of initiatives including Level Up, RoboCoast, Mayor’s Telstra Tech Awards (MTTA) and GovHack.
“Our highly successful Sunshine Coast Regional Innovation Pipeline Team (SCRIPT) program incorporates the Smart21 principles to drive economic outcomes that will support our existing innovation ecosystem to grow exports, create new jobs and attract talent and business expansion to the region.”
Local entrepreneur and founder of YOUtax, Emma Baxter, said thanks to the SCRIPT, and the Level Up program, her company was providing extra value to clients and servicing them in a more simple and convenient way.
“Our company has implemented a number of digital systems since starting the program which has grown our capacity to offer a superior online service for our customers while keeping operating costs to a minimum,” Ms Baxter said.
“Without LevelUp, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
“When you experience the results of a program like this, you can see why a global organisation like ICF has named the Sunshine Coast as one of the Smart21 communities.”
For Jessica Poole, Anto Thomas and Ray Steele, from Nambour College, the MTTA program provided a platform to develop their concept of “Driving Mate” which offers incentives for people to put their phone away behind the wheel.
The team received a Highly Commended in the awards and, as a result, had the opportunity to meet with entrepreneur and investor Steve Baxter and discuss their vision.
Shane Cunningham, who teaches business and mathematics at Nambour State College, said it was pleasing to be part of a region committed to ongoing learning and the provision of support for local entrepreneurship and innovation.
“This is a great result for the Sunshine Coast. I’ve seen first-hand the benefits these extracurricular programs offer for young entrepreneurs,” Mr Cunningham said.
“These young kids could soon develop the next game changer project. It’s this type of support which helps shape the future.”
Sunshine Coast Innovation Centre CEO Mark Paddenburg said being a Smart21 community helped to reinforce the Sunshine Coast’s strong reputation as a dynamic hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Our region has a unique entrepreneurial ecosystem where industry contemporaries collaborate, and where innovation, new ideas, entrepreneurs and start-ups are actively supported and encouraged,” Mr Paddenburg said.
“And with the backing of international awards like this, we will continue to grow.“
This is the fifth time the region has been named a Smart21 community after being selected from a group of nearly 400 other communities throughout the world.
For the next phase in the Awards Program, seven communities will be selected as the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2019 on 11 February 2019.
One of the Top7 will then be named the Intelligent Community of the Year on 13 June during an Awards Dinner at the 2019 ICF Global Summit in New York City.
“We know there will be strong competition for the Top7, but we feel our region is up for the challenge,” Mayor Jamieson said.
The Sunshine Coast’s inclusion as a Smart21 Community follows a number of other recent smart cities accolades, including the National Leadership City Award and Regional Leadership Award at the inaugural Australian Smart Cities Awards in Sydney.
Like the ICF, the Smart Cities Awards acknowledge the programs council has delivered including investment in loT technology and free public Wi-Fi, along with the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm – the first to be built by a local government in Australia - which offsets 100% of council’s electricity consumption with energy from a renewable source.
The awards continued at the GovHack National Awards 2018, with Sunshine Coast locals taking out two of the top prizes, two runners-up prizes and three honourable mentions.
The Smart21 announcement video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owwafUa3E_s.