Canberra: the Smart Capital

By Kristin Blume and Kym Johnson

Canberra is Australia’s capital city. We are a city state, located a few hundred kilometres inland from Sydney, and known as Australia’s bush capital, and most liveable city. We have a population of nearly 400,000, projected to grow to half a million by 2033.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government is committed to evolving Canberra into a smart and connected digital city, through a range of leading edge initiatives.  Smart cities use real time information and technology to engage and collaborate with residents to better plan and access services, deliver integrated, smart transport, attract and create jobs, and place the citizen in the centre of all service delivery.

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A Sister City Agreement with Wellington was signed in July 2016, formalising our commitment to work together to continue to grow both our economies, support our respective business communities and further enhance the cultural and social fabric of Wellington and Canberra. Under this agreement, both cities are already setting the pace for smart city and digital transformation.

Here is a showcase of Canberra’s smart city credentials, where the smart use of technology is creating a more sustainable and liveable, data driven city:

100% Renewable Energy by 2020

As a capital city, Canberra is powering forward to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020, and leading national action on climate change and smart energy research. In 2012, Canberra pioneered a ‘reverse auction process’ where companies competed to offer renewable energy at the lowest cost, but biggest benefit, to the city. Since this time, Canberra has run a series of auctions to secure enough wind and solar generation across Australia to ensure we are 100 per cent renewable by 2020. Through these projects, Canberra has also secured more than 500 million dollars in local investment benefits—including support for trades training, research and development and technology demonstration projects.

Smart Streetlights

Not long from now, Canberra will break ground on a major project to improve the way it lights its roads and other public spaces.  And as part of this project, it will build a smart city backbone among its 79,000 light poles which will support a smarter city for a generation of Canberrans. Through a multi-year, energy-efficiency contract, thousands of street lights will be replaced with ones of much greater energy-efficient design.  More important than that, they will also be smarter because, by being connected to sensors, a communications network and management system, they will save and spend energy exactly when needed, and help the ACT better manage a range of transport-related events.

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But infrastructure placed on poles to makes streetlights smarter will also be a technical foundation for building a broader smart city backbone.  In the coming years, that backbone will attract a range of Internet-of-things devices to street poles, which will enable smart and powerful amenities and services for the ACT community for years to come – far beyond those related just to roads.  Some of these services we cannot yet even imagine.

Smart transport and City Services

Sustainable, integrated transport is a priority for the ACT Government’s smart mobility program.  A new light rail network will be completed in 2018, boosting public transport options.  With over three thousand kilometres of cycle paths, the city’s active travel program is rapidly expanding to provide healthy, fresh air choices for citizens and tourists to move around Canberra. Across the city, sensors, crowd sourcing, real-time data and visualization are being trialled to improve roads, public transport and waste management. The city’s smart streetlight network is also set to be one of the largest in Australia, providing a backbone for this leading smart city.

Smart Parking

Manuka is the test bed for smart parking in Canberra. The Canberra Free Wi-Fi network, in-ground parking sensors and a smart parking app assist drivers with real-time parking information are helping to decrease congestion in the Manuka area.  Smart parking is one common initiative, with a trial in Canberra modelled from Wellington’s experience. A fair, efficient parking management system is an essential component to making visits to both cities enjoyable for visitors, fair to residents and profitable to local businesses.

Visit Canberra and see our smart city for yourself!

We would love to see you in Canberra! Find out more about what you can do in our lovely, smart, fun, liveable city, and fly directly from Wellington to visit us soon.


Kristin Blume leads the City Operations, Economy and Environment team in the central department of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) local government, and is leading development of a Smart City Strategy for Canberra. She has a background in transport, planning, and public policy, and has moved into the smart city/digital city space in the past seven months.

Kym Johnson is a policy officer within the Smart City team in the ACT Government and is a lead contributor to the development of Canberra’s Smart City Strategy.  Kym is helping to lead the ACT Government’s coordination and approach in developing Canberra into one of Australia’s leading smart cities.

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