The City of Melbourne, Australia is ranked as one of the most liveable in the world. This award-winning lifestyle is fueled by a delightful blend of friendly people, global culture, and amazing food and coffee.
Most people don’t think about what goes on behind-the-scenes when they consider the pleasures of good city living. But Melbourne’s Chief Information Officer Colin Fairweather, and Manager of Technology Partnerships Daniela Mazzone, think about it – and work hard to improve it – every day.
Australia has three levels of government; federal, state, and local. Federal manages policy of the nation. State addresses vital regional concerns. But local is “the government you can touch”, where people in the city and around the world explore and consume the widest range of government services. Melbourne is using technology to connect with all these people and wants to get them involved to make government services even better. Using a Salesforce-based interactive platform, city employees, departments, organizations, contractors, students, employers, and neighbors can find more, learn more, do more, and contribute more to make the city better for everyone.
For example, one app can be used to notify the city with photos and GPS coordinates whenever graffiti needs to be removed, a vehicle is illegally parked, a waste-bin is overflowing, or someone on the street is in distress. Reports can be made easily, quickly, with follow-up progress and status reports if desired. This enables faster response and better utilization of government resources, so that contractors and employees can spend more time meeting people on the front end and less time managing paper in the backend.
A multilingual, AI-enabled interface is being developed so Melbourne’s diverse multicultural community including a large international student population (and their parents back home) can find out what’s happening and communicate easily with the city using the app, channel, or social media platform of their choice. This makes Melbourne more integrated, and more attractive, to students, tourists, talent, and investment from overseas.
Even the trees in Melbourne are connected, each with a unique identifier to receive “tree-mail” that is read and replied to by city employees. While this allows quick notification when a tree needs pruning or special care, many trees have received messages of encouragement and appreciation. One 9-year old recently wrote thanking a tree for shade and beauty throughout the year, and then asking sincerely what the tree would like for Christmas.
Fairweather and Mazzone speak passionately about their city’s commitment to the community; technology as an enabler for other things to happen; building trust instead of building tech; creating more participation with fewer platforms; and decentralizing access to local knowledge that puts real jobs and real joy back into the community.
Of course, Melbourne is not the only city using technology to connect people with services to make urban living better. Melbourne Digital Enterprises is a new enterprise recently created to make the city’s innovations available to other towns and cities. And with most of the world’s population now living in urban areas, that’s an entrepreneurial development that can benefit us all.
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