How do you use technology to improve citizen’s lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

Due to our experience of earthquakes, we know all about disruptions. As a city, we want to be the test bed for disruption in terms of the technology we know is coming. So trialling the autonomous electric vehicle at our airport, as we did recently, will help write the regulatory rules required for use on the road.

What has been the most exciting thing that you have worked on in 2017?

The most exciting development this year has been seeing the Smart Cities Christchurch programme move into full swing. The programme explores new technology and approaches to help make the city a smarter place for people to live, work and play.

We’re working with the community and the public and the private sector to introduce new technology, such as sensors, a city app, predictive analytics, augmented reality capabilities, and more engaging visualisations of data. These innovations will allow us to collect and take advantage of real-time data to enable better planning and decision-making, attract international talent to the city, and create business opportunities.

We’re also trialling innovative approaches such as crowd-sourced funding and data collection, “GovHack” events, public and private partnerships, and trials. As a result, residents, public and private sector agencies, and educational institutions are empowered to create their own opportunities for Christchurch.

Out of a disaster, there are always opportunities. With Christchurch’s regeneration, we are uniquely positioned to leverage Smart Cities innovations. Christchurch councillors have agreed to trial innovative technology and approaches to assess their value before committing to making them part of our permanent infrastructure. We are committed to partnering with multiple organisations and the local community to make Christchurch one of the most open and connected cities in the world.

Several trials showcase the partnerships that foster local innovation: for example, Smart Cities Christchurch is working with Fabriko (part of the global FabLab network) to develop Sensibel, a solution that captures sentiment or emotional response from cyclists.

Design and innovation company inFact is developing Pip Levelsense devices, sensors that are attached to the inside of public rubbish bins to alert contractors when they need to be emptied.

And Christchurch City Council put up a challenge to the 2016 Christchurch GovHack event, seeking a solution to help prioritise post-earthquake engineering inspections. The winning team created an Earthquake Response Visualiser, which will allow the Council to see which buildings have experienced forces likely to cause damage and/or liquefaction, warranting a priority response.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2018?

The Smart Cities Christchurch programme has partnered with the CCC Parking Enforcement team, CCS Disability Action, Thundermaps, and inFact to develop a mobility parking solution which will allow crowd-sourced identification of mobility parks. Users can also send alerts to the Council’s enforcement team via the app when a car is parked in a mobility parking space without the mobility card displayed.

In 2018, we will trial inFact-produced car park sensors. A bluetooth functionality will alert enforcement teams when a non-mobility card holder is parking in a mobility parking space. More importantly, it will help CCS Disability Action, the distributor of the mobility cards, to solve the problem of mobility parking card abuse.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2017, what would it be?

You have got to be prepared to fail.

Also, Sir Richard Taylor from the Weta Workshop said, “The art of innovation is to throw yourself at failure and miss”. I love this quote!

What was the greatest challenge that you overcame in 2017?

Our Council going paperless was a personal challenge for me in 2017. Councillors and Community Board members used to get printed agendas, which could sometimes be several hundred pages long, but we made the decision to go digital.

We now receive meeting agendas on iPads, which we can make notes on and easily carry around. The change has saved a stack of paper taller than the library building on the University of Canterbury. Furthermore, the change will save the Council around $90,000 a year in production, delivery and disposal costs, as well as having big environmental benefits.

I originally struggled with the idea of going paperless because of my lack of technical expertise. I thought I wouldn’t be able to chair a meeting without a hard copy of the agenda in front of me, but now I’m a convert. I wouldn’t be without my iPad Pro now. I’ve got over all the hurdles and now I’m a real pro on my digital device!

What book did you read in 2017 that most interested or inspired you?

“Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”, by Thomas L. Friedman.

Who inspired you in 2017, and why?

Hila Oren, CEO of the Tel Aviv Foundation. Hila spoke at Christchurch’s “Building Knowledge Speaker Series”, organised by the Christchurch Foundation. She is so passionate about innovative practices and programmes that fuel urban development and positively impact the lives of citizens.

But that is the how and as we know, it’s all about the why – knowing who we are and what is our purpose. Christchurch may be New Zealand’s Garden City, but what that means in the 21st century is so much more than what it meant when I was growing up – sustainability, environmental protection, clean rivers and food resilience. A place with the opportunity to grow, connect and find balance.

And in terms of our recent experience, we find ourselves completely open to new ideas, new people and new ways of doing things – we are city where anything is possible. This is who we have always been – from the suffragists through to the explorers on their way to Antarctica, we haven’t been afraid to go where no one has been before. Hila’s talk was truly inspiring.