Smart Cities - He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

Wed, 2017-11-29 06:47 -- Adam Beck

He aha te mea nui o te ao

What is the most important thing in the world?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Maori proverb


When we (Tristan at Aurecon and I) decided we wanted to do an After5 on smart cities, we knew we didn't want to do the typical presentation on what the tech that’s being deployed looked like, or what the different network capabilities would be.

We wanted to challenge people’s thinking and to have them think at a more strategic level about what living in a smart city means - and that's what we got with our presenters at the event.

Adam Beck gave a presentation based on the approach to the whole area by the Smart Cities Council.  This was very much around three core values:

  • Livability: Cities that provide clean, healthy living conditions without pollution and congestion. With a digital infrastructure that makes city services instantly and conveniently available anytime, anywhere.
  • Workability: Cities that provide the enabling infrastructure — energy, connectivity, computing, essential services — to compete globally for high-quality jobs.
  • Sustainability: Cities that provide services without stealing from future generations.

It may have surprised some attendees the emphasis on these values such as sustainability and not transport and technology.  But the whole message was that smart cities are actually all about people, because it's people who live in cities. 

Adam went a step further with a statement that the success of a smart city can only be measured on how we help our most vulnerable people and communities.  The Smarts Cities Council has created an initiative they have called “Compassionate Cities” which they launched in  early 2016.  The idea is to raise awareness about ways cities can reduce suffering and improve the lives of vulnerable populations by innovating to include them in any uplift. The idea is that oftentimes the same digital technologies that are already being applied to solve other city challenges can be extended to help improve the lives of disadvantaged citizens.  You can read more about this initiative here (

In his presentation Adam also asked the audience if they had read the two reports released back in 2016 that looked at the reasoned in NZ cities - and got a very poor response.  So… if youre interested in reading the reports they are attached to this page on the LINZ website (

Following on from Adam, Slaven Marusic, Aurecon’s Digital Insights Leader reinforced Adam’s presentation with the call to think about whether the idea of a smart city was not a destination, and that we need to move beyond calling things pilots.  He suggested our aim is “smarter cities” - the idea that we get on and do things to make our cities more liveable now for the inhabitants.  You can read more about their thinking here (

I started this piece with the well known Maori proverb - our Aussie presenters were probably unaware of this proverb - but I think it nicely sums up the key message from both Adam and Slaven over the last two evenings.

*This article was reproduced with the permission of its author, Craig Young, the CEO of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand.