The Digital Benefit District - a blueprint for post-COVID neighbourhoods

By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place

In 2017 the Smart Cities Council embarked on a journey to create a blueprint for smart urban development. The goal was to provide scope and definition to the concept of using technology and data as accelerators to sustainability outcomes in land development and real estate and infrastructure projects.

After more than a year of workshopping across Australia and New Zealand the Code for Smart Communities was released, articulating five principles for smart urban development and over 30 metrics to guide the planning, design, construction and maintenance of next generation precincts, masterplanned communities and campuses.

And in 2020, we extended that work even further.

As part of the our Bounce Lab initiative - a private/public partnership think tank between government and industry - we created a Playbook for Digital Benefit Districts.

So, what's a Digital Benefit District?

They are in response to the challenges experienced by government, the community and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking to address shortfalls in traditional urbanism, which is not digitally-enabled (for all) and equipped to generate real-time insights on what is happening, or what should happen.

Here are the summary notes on what a Digital Benefit Districts is:

  • they are placed-based urban renewal precincts, main streets and neighbourhood centres

  • they leverage the Code for Smart Communities and its blueprint for smart urban development - ensuring the imperatives exist - such as great placemaking, collaboration and sustainability targets

  • they specify a minimum level and type of connectivity that serves everyone - especially our communities most vulnerable

  • they include a sensing package that ensures data on the fundamental conditions of a neighbourhood are gathered for conversion into insight

  • they are supplemented with community generated data

  • they provide opportunities to accelerate community innovation through inclusive spaces, places and programs

  • they include a neighbourhood data dashboard that visualises and facilitates insights-driven decision making at a neighbourhood level

  • they help build stronger digital relationships between the community, local council's and small business owners/operators

  • they ensure the principles of equity, inclusion and engagement are built into the neighbourhood development process

  • they can be a driver in reducing the digital divide across our most vulnerable communities

  • they are underpinned by new metrics, indicators and performance reporting processes

  • they are ‘places’ for accelerating smart cities scaling and replication of solutions that promote outcomes in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals

  • they embrace the fundamental principles of resilience.

You can download the Digital Benefit District Playbook from the Future of Place Knowledge Exchange.

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