The capital of the state of South Australia, Adelaide also enjoys, according to The Economist, the distinction of being among the most liveable cities in the world. It is the center of a metro area of 1.3 million that contains 75% of the state’s population. That high liveability factor is the result of its comfortable Mediterranean climate and coastal location, a legacy of planning that dates back to its founding in the 19th Century, and a diverse and well-educated population, of which 30% come from overseas and more than 34,000 are international students.
The community is home to the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Flinders University and campuses of Carnegie Mellon and University College London. The educational connection has given birth to multiple research and development parks, including the Waite Research Precinct, Technology Park, Science Park and the Research Park at Thebarton.
Growing the IT Economy
Despite its dominance of the state’s population, Adelaide’s housing is relatively cheap – about half the average price of Sydney and two-thirds that of Melbourne. That helps support the growth of an economy that is currently and comfortably driven by government spending. The largest employment sector is health care and social assistance at 13%, followed by retail at 12%. Metro Adelaide is also home to a significant percentage of Australia’s defense industry and a major Royal Australian Air Force base.
Adelaide’s Intelligent Community programs, however, focus on building a more innovative economy. It has partnered with a company called TPG to install Ten Gigabit Adelaide, a fiber-optic network offering 10 Gbps symmetrical capacity to businesses. The goal is to have fiber running down every street of the central business district and other business centers, with rollout beginning in early 2018. City government estimates that Ten Gigabit Adelaide will deliver between A$16m and A$76m in economic benefit, lead to the creation of 2,500 new jobs in six years, and have a major positive impact on business attraction, retention and consumer spending. It will also provide the fundamental infrastructure needed to deliver future smart city projects for better traffic management, smart lighting and security video.
The city has also retained its first Entrepreneur in Residence to guide aspiring entrepreneurs, company founders and business leaders in growing investment-ready start-ups. Kirk Drage returned to Adelaide after a decade working for Microsoft as Head of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. His multi-country Asian team recruited more than 8,000 startups during his tenure. He works from the Smart City Studio, founded in 2015 in partnership with Cisco, which declared Adelaide one of its Lighthouse Cities that same year.
A different kind of guidance is provided by the Digital Hub Training Program, which encourages lifelong learning through community computer literacy training. The Hub delivered nearly 1,300 programs in its most recent year, which brought training on computers, tablets, smartphones, virtual reality and robotics to 3,000 residents. More than 200 organizations also sent their employees to workshops on selling online, using social media for growth, and understanding emerging technologies.
Supporting What Works
The emphasis on preparing for a digital economy has not diverted Adelaide from investing in the things that make it a great community today. Study Adelaide is a program that markets the city as a destination for international students. (Wonderful weather and great beaches probably help.) It targets 43 cities in 11 countries and provides a joined-up approach to attract students, provide support for them once they arrive and build connections with local employers as they prepare to leave school. The success of the program is easily measured: students from overseas currently contribute about A$1.3 billion in economic value to the city.
With quality of life such an important driver, it is no wonder that Adelaide has signed on to the Paris Climate Accord of Mayors. Its Carbon Neutral Strategy aims to have the city become the first in the world to be certified as producing zero net carbon emissions by 2020. Adelaide already slashed its carbon emissions 60% from 1994 to 2010, when a new energy management plan began to transform how the city obtained its energy. City Council reduced its energy consumption by 15% through 2015 and achieved savings of A$800,000 in the process. It is now piloting a smart LED lighting program that is expected to reduce energy consumption by a further 10% and produce an average monthly savings of 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Nature, location and history have been kind to Adelaide, which is Australia’s oldest municipal authority. Like all cities, it is faced with an increasingly unpredictable future, from climate change to disruptive innovation, and Adelaide is equipping itself with the infrastructure and programs needed to turn challenge into social, economic and cultural success.