Is Data . . . Shaping our City?

Shaping our City is a series of open debates and discussions hosted by Arup around the future of Melbourne.

On 16 March, Arup and the City of Melbourne hosted the seventh forum in the Shaping our City series looking at how sources of data have produced a shift in the planning and implementation of Melbourne’s infrastructure needs towards smart city modelling.

Our panel of experts included:

Moderated by Arup’s Peter Bowtell, our panellists engaged in an insightful and broad discussion on the value of data in the context of our city.

Michelle Fitzgerald, Chief Digital Officer at the City of Melbourne closed the evening with a summary of the discussion. She identified three key themes.

The first was on sharing data and the value of openness versus security. Jacyl’s opening remarks on the comparison of Belarus, where internet censorship is not uncommon and the economy is declining year after year, compared to its neighbour Estonia, regarded as one of the most innovative and data embracing societies globally, reinforced the value of shared data and openness.

The second theme was on data curation. A question was raised from the audience on who should be shaping the data and do we need to curate experiences. Michelle commented that by opening up data a majority of the time will result in a commercial solution.

Finally, is data building or destroying social equity? Our panel discussed that we can’t ignore that there is a digital divide. There is a portion of our community who do not have access to technology and they are therefore not considered in our pool of data. If data is allowing us to co-create our future city we need to consider that the data does not reflect the whole community.

Even though the topic was data and digital, Michelle highlighted that the majority of the conversation focused on people and that fundamentally cities are about human experiences in the physical environment.

Thank you to our panellists and all who attended and participated in this important discussion around the future of our city.

Links of interest:

Future Melbourne 2026

Survey Results

Thank you also to those who took part in our online survey. You can find the results here.