Guest Contributors

The Making of a Smarter Geraldton

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Geraldton, Australia? Our city of 40,000 is located 400 kilometres (249 miles) from Perth, itself regarded as “the most isolated city in the world.” We may be “far away,” but Geraldton is rich with natural resources and strategically placed to become an emerging centre for sustainable and renewable energy. Working with an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team, Geraldton is building its eminence in technology and clean energy to attract partners and investors and become a global Smarter City.

The IBM Smarter Cities Team (from left) David Yip, Catherine Lord, John Constantopolous, Melissa Downer, John Kamensky, Ann Valencic

For starters, Geraldton is optimally placed to provide support and services for the Australian part of the Square Kilometre Array – a global mega-science and engineering project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope across Karoo Desert in South Africa and the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. Geraldton also benefits from the Australian Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) which aims to connect all households in businesses in Australia to high speed broadband through the largest fibre optic rollout in human history. We will be the first city in Australia to have every home and every business connected to the new network.

On top of all that, Geraldton has abundant wave, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy resources. We have Australia’s largest solar photovoltaic farm, and Western Australia’s largest wind turbine array. Industry is queuing up to build more to provide clean energy to our massive mining sector, and also to sell power to the 1.7 million population Perth metropolitan area.

Geraldton has many opportunities, but also faces many challenges. As a remote community that has evolved predominantly out of the natural resources and extraction economies, we need to understand our changing role in the global marketplace and how it can benefit us. Our next task will be to convince the world that Geraldton is a globally significant centre in the technology sector. That said, we have a lot to learn from other cities that have more experience in technology and sustainability markets. Geraldton has some catching up to do.

This is where the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge and the incredible work of the IBM team comes to the fore. In Geraldton, they were tasked with the enormous task of developing a multifaceted strategy to raise awareness of the city’s emerging prominence in technology and clean energy. As a result, we now have a roadmap for progress in our transformation to a global Smarter City. The IBM engagement also conferred third-party validation for Geraldton’s plans – validation that will be critical to attracting partners and investors to collaborate on our transition to a global technology centre. In addition, the IBM team helped paint a clear picture of how Geraldton could leverage the advantages of the NBN investment to improve the overall quality of city life.

In November 2012, after the conclusion of our Smarter Cities engagement, we attended IBM’s Smarter Cities Summit in Palisades, New York for two days of thought-leadership interactions with Smarter Cities leaders from around the world. At the Summit, we made new allies in our collective journey to make the world a smarter, cleaner and more sustainable place. We also realized one of the key benefits of the Smarter Cities program: That data collected from cities of differing sizes, cultures and governance systems can help all cities identify the best approaches to managing their unique challenges. And that while you can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to managing cities, you can apply the lessons learned in collaborative gatherings with people who are dedicated to improving urban life for all citizens.

An executive and engineer with a focus on sustainability, infrastructure, planning
and communities, Tony Brun serves as Chief Executive Officer of the City of
Geraldton, Australia.

Related Resource:

How to Reinvent a City: Mayors’ Lessons from the Smarter Cities Challenge

The Square Kilometre Array: The World’s Ultimate Big Data Challenge



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