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Making Sydney a smart city

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TEL Aviv is a smart city in more ways than one. Largely thanks to the efforts of Tel Aviv Global CEO Hila Oren, residents are enjoying improved innovation, nightlife, connectivity through their own personalised “digital card” and free Wi-Fi all over the city. “Digital cards are personalised with the information that each person wants and needs,” Oren, who is visiting Australia, told The AJN. “They are all different. When is my road blocked? When are there child-friendly shows in my area? When does my parking license expire? It’s tailored to each person.”

It takes huge cooperation between thousands of departments to produce and maintain the digital card, but Oren maintains that it is a hundred per cent worth it.

“You can see it making Tel Aviv better, you can see how it influences the city,” Oren said. “We now understand the needs of different communities much better, and we can maintain engagement with them.” Oren explained that one of the common misconceptions about smart cities is that people think a city is one single perfect organism, when really it is a collection of smaller, tighter communities that all have different needs. And while infrastructure such as lighting, garbage and roads are important, what Oren considers to be more important are the social services.

“You need to focus on what residents really care about,” Oren said. “The municipality has to be able to look after the social needs of its citizens, like education and the arts. Of course, one of the reasons people admire Tel Aviv is because of its start-up culture.”

Oren believes in the open exchange of ideas and creativity, and Tel Aviv is working hard to facilitate new innovative start-ups through the Startup Visa, which will allow entrepreneurs from around the world to come to Tel Aviv for up to two years in order to work on developing their products. Additionally, if a start-up relocates to Tel Aviv, it can pay $300 and receive three months of co-working space.

“If you want to learn fashion, you go to Paris or Milan. If you want to engage in start-ups, you go to Tel Aviv, the smart city.”

So what should change in Sydney in order for it to become a smart city?

“It’s not about change, it’s about implementation,” Oren explained. “I talked to Monica Barone, CEO of the City of Sydney, and in terms of budget, people and community, I really do feel that there is the capability for Sydney to become a smart city. The desire is there, it’s now just a matter of choosing to act.”

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