The tale of two smart cities: People, data, technology and how to make cities smart

The tale of two smart cities: People, data, technology and how to make cities smart



10 November 2015


State Library of New South Wales


Public forum

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says, “liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity.” But how do 21st century cities become liveable, vibrant and productive? How can our urban centres live up to their full potential as economic assets and leverage the vast wealth of human capital within them? These questions and concepts are not new to Americans, as over the past six years, the Obama Administration has pursued a place-based approach to working with communities as they tackle a wide range of challenges, from investing in infrastructure and working with open data, to strengthening community services through technology and running local government more efficiently. New advances in technology have the potential to accelerate these efforts and create the liveable, vibrant, and prosperous cities that are so crucial to national economies, and the people who call these smart cities home, and Australia has much to learn from our trans-Pacific partners.

The Future Cities Collaborative presented this free public discussion on smart cities by two global leaders in this field, John Tolva, former Chief Technology Officer from the City of Chicago, and Frans-Anton Vermast, Senior Stategy Advisor from Amsterdam.

At a time when cities are back on the national agenda, and with the Obama Administration committing $160 million to a new Smart Cities Initiative, there has never been a better time to think about how to make our cities smarter.

The Tale of Two Smart Cities: People, Data, Technology, and How to Make Cities Smart


  • Frans-Anton Vermast
    Senior Strategy Advisor, Amsterdam Smart City

    Frans-Anton Vermast visited the US Studies Centre in 2015. Vermast has had extensive involvement as a European public and government affairs advisor and is a Senior Strategy Advisor in Low Carbon & Connected Urban Policies at Amsterdam Smart City. He is an expert in searching for opportunities to make cities more habitable for its citizens to live, work and play. Vermast specialises in developing open and user-centric Smart Cities by utilising holistic and collaborative bottom-up approaches to cross-silo and citizen engagement.

  • John Tolva
    Co-Founder, CityFi

    John Tolva was a visitor at the US Studies Centre in 2015. Tolva is a co-founder of CityFi, an advisory company in the business of urban change management. Formerly, Tolva was the President of PositivEnergy Practice, an urban systems engineering firm based on data-driven planning for new building design, retrofits, and urban design.

    From 2011 to 2013, he was Chief Technology Officer for the City of Chicago, leveraging technology to streamline public services through more efficient data-sharing, digital communications, and next-generation infrastructure. In 2012, the White House recognised Tolva as a ‘Champion of Change’.