1 Year in… Here’s what we’ve achieved.

Friday the 19th July may have seen like a regular day to you, but it was a special day for me as it marked a full year into my contract leading The City of Canterbury Bankstown in its journey to becoming an innovative Council and a leading smart city.

Were the largest City in NSW and fourth largest in Australia, but were also the leanest Council in NSW, meaning were slightly more resource challenged than other cities. A caveat which, in my opinion makes our successes that much more impressive!

In celebrating 12-months in the gig, I thought it was important to reflect on the journey thus far. One thing Im incredibly conscious of is the trend for public sector innovators to constantly be looking into the future… Its our job after all. But its also really important to ground yourself in the present, acknowledge the success and achievements from the past and reflect before moving forward.

The first year in our journey was always about building momentum, growing appetite, laying the appropriate foundations, listening to and learning from other cities. You can read more about our foundation actions and commitments in the Smart CBCity Roadmap, starting on page 28.

So, may I present to you a select list (in no particular order) of my proudest achievements in our Smart City journey over the past year.

The Smart CBCity Roadmap was published

Our guiding plan, which was written entirely in house, was delivered in draft format to our Council, then endorsed for public exhibition. Weve received international praise for our Smart CBCity Roadmap and had a lot of really positive feedback, which Im chuffed about.

No alt text provided for this image

Extensive consultation spanning 12 months

People always gasp when I tell them I put our Roadmap out to exhibition for 9 months. We had already completed 3 months of less formal consultation to draft the document and co-create the guiding principles. Our Mayor had publicly made it his goal to leave no one behind on this journey, so 12 months of extensive consultation seems incredibly fitting. And as youll see from this post, its not like I wasnt working my butt off simultaneously, progressing us towards our goals. Here are some of the major consultation initiatives we did.

  • Youth and CALD workshops
  • Social Planning Sessions
  • Our always on Have Your Say Platform (we saw 1,110 views of our roadmap on the Have Your Say platform).
  • Smart City Schools Competition (all schools in our City were invited to submit a video explaining what theyd like to see smart city technology achieve for our city. The prize was a 3D printer for their school).
  • Future Street Activation (a partnership between the City Smart team, City Design team, Community Engagement team and Place Design Group to help people understand what smart city technology is in the context of a complete street).

No alt text provided for this image

Within our organisation:

Over the past year, Ive been working hard to build a culture of innovation and grow the appetite for applying smart concepts to all elements of city management. Here are some of the things Im most proud to have achieved in the past year, contributing to an organisational view of becoming a leading smart city…

Innovation Month: Were coming the end of Innovation Month at CBCity which has given people from any business unit, an opportunity to get involved in innovation activities and also be exposed to some really innovative work thats being done in the sector at present.

Smart City Taskforce: We developed a Taskforce so that each of our Council business units is appropriately represented whenever we make decisions or work on any smart city related projects.

Smart City Champions: We established a group of smart city champions, with more than 50 people in our organisation pledging their support to champion smart cities thinking and innovative concepts in their specific areas, also across the organisation.

FutureCITY panel: We created an advisory panel of approx 8 technology, IoT and smart city experts with a vested interest in progressing our Citys innovation goals.

No alt text provided for this image

Discovery Day: We gathered more than 60 staff, academia and private sector to spend 5 hours learning about all about our project governance for Closing the Loop on Waste and all of the problems were trying to solve by taking on this major project.

Councillor knowledge: Ive spent a great deal of time over the past year working with our Councillors. It has been a privilege to watch our elected officials grow their knowledge in the public sector innovation space and apply smart cities thinking to make real improvements for our community. Of course, weve seen a number of Mayoral Minutes championing progress in this space from the CitySMART teams biggest advocate, Mayor Khal Asfour. Weve also seen a number of Notice of Motions regarding smart city technology from a number of our Councillors.


I hired a team: Were a small but mighty team, and we sure do get a lot done. In the past 6 months Ive hired 2 staff members to fill urgent workload priorities in our CitySmart Team. Barbara Iordanidis is the new Senior Project Officer responsible for project managing our massive Closing the Loop on Waste program. And Christopher Manoski is the new Innovation Coordinator assisting with our Smart Tank innovation challenge.

No alt text provided for this image

I released staffing resources into the organisation: One of my proudest achievements over the past year has been building a shared vision around our Smart Cities goals. This shared vision is perhaps the most underrated and overlooked success of them all, because you cant put a number to it. Having the organisation get on board and clearly understand the vision, and their role in helping us achieve that vision makes my job a lot easier. Im not one for hoarding resources for myself. Our organisation is made up of incredibly talented subject matter experts who are without a doubt, the best people to do the work. And in having a shared vision, and in demonstrating my commitment to supporting the organisation through this journey, I released approximately 6 FTE staffing resources back into the organisation to be able to assist with taking on this new work.

We outgrew our office space: Its not often you can say you outgrew your office space in under 12 months, but from the humble beginnings of a single office in July 2018 for myself, to borrowing a couple of desks to fit new staff members. I can happily say the City Smart team moved offices in late June 2019, providing us with extra space and hot desking facilities which we have been able to open up to our organisation to sit with our team and work on smart cities approaches to their work. This new office space also allows us to work much more cohesively with our project teams across the organisation.


There are a number of projects Ive been supporting and championing over the past 12 months to help propel us to smart city readiness. These include:

Priority projects: Our priority projects were established in October. I also developed a project prioritisation tool which Ive shared with a number of other Councils to help determine the need and priority to take on certain innovation projects. This has helped enormously in managing expectations and getting people to understand that this work takes time and patience.

Safe TV Schools: Ive been working with our Roads, Traffic and Regulatory Services teams to solve a major challenge for our City. Double parking in school zones poses a major safety risk and threat, and our current management is labour intensive, inefficient and unsustainable. Were working on piloting different technologies to deter drivers from doing the wrong thing in school zones.

Smart Parking: Ive been working with our Traffic team to develop a pilot which uses data and technology to help our community get around our city better, reduce congestion and future proof our parking mechanisms.

City Data Progress Portal: Ive been working with our IP&R, City Plan, Corporate Development and IT teams to open up access to our reporting data and share our Citys progress with our community. Were still prototyping and hoping to have something in place very soon.

Federal Funding: We were awarded more than $1M in federal funding this year in the Smart Cities and Suburbs program for our Closing the Loop on Waste program. Im really personally proud to have been able to secure match funding from our Council and partners in a program bringing the total project funds up to $2.1M.

Closing the Loop on Waste: This $2.1M project will use technology and data to fundamentally improve the way Cities manage their waste operations in Australia. We kicked the project off in January, after being awarded funding in late November. Im incredibly proud of the project governance that Ive established, which safeguards true collaboration. Weve got 4 project streams (Customer Experience, Technology, Waste Operations and Sustainability), each with an equal stake in the project. We also have university partnerships with the University of Technology Sydney and Western Sydney University. And to cap it off, weve got industry partnerships with Blue Chili and Astrolabe.

Smart Tank: I managed to secure endorsement and funding for an internal innovation challenge in early 2019. This program of works will see my team release a significant portion of funding to innovative projects through a competitive process which will see business units assess areas for improvement, evaluate how they can use technology, connectivity or data to make those improvements and bid for project seed funding. Weve partnered with our corporate development team to ensure that our people are not just building new skills throughout the Smart Tank program, but feel supported along the way; a huge step forward to building a thriving culture of innovation.


From an industry perspective, hopefully all the people reading this will be able to agree, Ive made a strong commitment to knowledge sharing to improve the state of the sector over the past year. Here are just a handful of things weve been working on…

Smart City Manager Network: I founded and continue to chair a Smart City Manager network for Sydney & surrounds smart city managers. This is a cross jurisdictional opportunity to discuss progress, key learnings, opportunities to collaborate and work with neighbouring councils, how were progressing to being a Smart Sydney and any efforts we individually need to focus on to reach our Smarter Sydney goals.

Standards Australia: A testament to CBCitys work in the smart cities arena, I was invited to be part of the Standards Australia reference group, responsible for developing smart city standards across Australia. I passionately advocated for local councils to be involved and we now have more than 4 councils represented on the reference group.

No alt text provided for this image

City Possible: CBCity became a founding member of the City Possible network in September 2018, a useful network which connects experts to cities, bringing together a global network of high-performing cities in the sector for cross collaboration. Together we will change the world! (or so we all agreed when we all met in Boston this May). You can watch their recap of the event here.

No alt text provided for this image

Legacy Project: In October of 2018, Adam Beck and I worked with a range of experts on the Tech for Social Good SCCANZ Taskforce to develop the Legacy Project. This day saw a number of people travel to Bankstown, including:

  • Government officials, not just from NSW, but from all over Australia, and some internationally also;
  • Private sector / vendors working in the Smart Cities space;
  • Consultants;
  • CBCity staff from all parts of the organisation;
  • School students;
  • Not for profits; and
  • Community members

The day was spent identifying how smart city thinking could be used to solve major challenges for two specific areas: Young Translators in our City, and Homelessness as a concept in our City.

No alt text provided for this image

Digital Rights Coalition: This June, our Mayor passed a minute to endorse our City in the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights. Im really proud of this achievement as it demonstrates our commitment to digital equity and leaving no one behind on our journey to becoming a leading smart city.

Learning and listening to from some of the Smartest Cities in the world: Over the past year, Ive had the opportunity to visit some of the smartest cities in the world and listen to their key learnings about their smart cities journey. I flew myself over to Perth in December last year to meet with Jemma from the City of Canning then over to Vancouver in May to meet with Jessie from the City of Vancouver. I spent time visiting the offices of and learning from the incredible Smart City / Data / Innovation teams at the City of Toronto, the City of Boston, the City of New York and the City of Jersey during a recent work trip to North America and Toronto.

Harvard Universitys Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator: I had the opportunity in May to attend the Innovation Accelerator at Harvard University which saw more than 45 fellow Chief Innovation Officers from cities around the world come together, share knowledge and have a discussion about how we can improve the uptake of innovation within our cities. I was personally proud to be one of three Australians invited to attend, and also really chuffed to share it with such fearless women: Jemma Greene from the City of Canning and Joanna Kraatz from Wollondilly Shire Council.

Industry recognition:

Conferencing: Ive donated my time to a number of worthwhile conferences and seminars over the past year, delivering on my commitment to being as open and transparent about this journey as possible. Some highlights included:

  • The Smart Cities Summit in March 2019;
  • The Local Government NSW Big Ideas Forum in April 2019;
  • Lecturing at UNSW for the Master of City Analytics course in March 2019;
  • The annual IPWEA Conference in June 2019
  • Presenting at CBCitys Leadership forum in front of 200+ of our staff and leaders in June 2019;
  • And countless webinars…

No alt text provided for this image

Leadership City for 2018: We didnt take out this award, but Im incredibly proud that our City was nominated and our efforts were recognised. We were nominated for our work in making solar energy more accessible to renters within our city, a concept which has already been scaled across the country. You can read about the five finalists here. Hopefully 2019 will be the year we take the trophy home for this accolade.

2019 Smart City Awards: We were nominated as a finalist for Best Residential Innovation at the 2019 Smart City Awards for our Closing the Loop on Waste project. A huge honour since we only kicked the project off in January and are still very much in the planning phases. It was such a delight to be recognised for how impactful this project will be in delivering real improvements to our cities.

Speaking at Harvard University: Life goal unlocked! It filled my heart with such happiness to be sent over to Harvard University in May and be invited to speak at the Global Cities Dialogue with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center. I was beyond proud to represent the City of Canterbury-Bankstown and our smart city efforts alongside others: Athens (Greece), Chennai (India), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Prague (Czech Republic).

No alt text provided for this image

The bottom line:

The numbers: Ive been tracking the return on investment and impact on our bottom line over the past year for some of the pilot projects and existing smart city efforts were engaged with. Its too early to release the numbers publicly, but I can say they are looking very healthy. Were seeing major efficiencies and improvements, in one specific area weve been able to reduce our operating cost by 82{802238075386540f56ff51177b29e561e146d6ad749d3ad56f8d94eb00021cb8} simply by adopting smart cities solutions and thinking, an achievement Im exceptionally proud of.

Robots vs People: In my line of work, people can become terrified, rather quickly about the impact of technology on their job. Theres a common feeling of the robots are going to steal my job in most scenarios. Perhaps my proudest achievement over the past 12-months is that this mindset hasnt been the norm. The topic of headcount has never come into play when investigating smart city and innovation initiatives, rather freeing peoples time up to do more meaningful work, ridding them of the more tedious tasks they find get in the way of delivering real improvement for our community. This, I attribute to the shared vision around smart cities and innovation at the City of Canterbury Bankstown Council, something Im very excited to continue to watch flourish as we progress on our journey.

So there it is. By no means an exhaustive list, and theres certainly a lot more to do. Now weve acknowledged the achievements spanning my first year in the role, Im free to get on with kicking goals.

Thank you all for your continued support and interest in the work were doing!

Published by

Petrhyce Donovan, Innovation & Smart City Manager at Canterbury Bankstown Council

You can find the original article here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/1-year-heres-what-weve-achieved-petrhyce-donovan/