NZPI Conference – Emerging Technologies

See my discussion on the NZPI Conference Keynote Speakers here. This post deals with the presentations in one stream of the breakout sessions.

The New Ground – Emerging Technologies sessions included the following presentations:

  • Nick Williamson: Inside GovHackNZ: Using open data to solve civic problems
  • Phil Carter and Michelle Kennedy: Connected and Autonomous Transit – Future Proofing our Cities
  • Sam O’Sullivan, Juliet Johnson and Jon Painter: What is your e-ability? Preparing planners for e-planning
  • Christine Coste: The Newest Scarce Resource: Professional Practice in the Attention Economy (my presentation)

It was great to see a good mix of presentations discussing where technology and planning practice intersect. In summary:

  • Nick explained how people from all walks of life are motivated to become involved in designing apps to use open data to create useful solutions to community problems – and as planners we should be more involved with these engaged citizens.
  • Phil and Michelle lead us through a useful exercise identifying the possible impacts of Mobility as a Service on our cities which really proved how wide-reaching the changes could be, plus our critical role in assisting with the transition.
  • Sam, Juliet and Jon demonstrated the GIS-led e-plan they have developed for the next New Plymouth District Plan and some of the opportunities and challenges an e-plan brings to the plan making process.
  • I spoke on the challenges of planning practice in a world where the public’s ability to pay attention and focus on our processes is very limited.

My reflections on this stream as a whole are:

  • Each session demonstrated the tension between new technology and our established processes and practice – it was great to see the pragmatic and positive responses which all the speakers had to new technology. Change was seen as a positive opportunity. Potentially negative aspects were seen as issues to be managed, not reasons to reject the technology. There was a very clear sense that we as a profession need to adapt and make the most of the new.
  • The speed at which new technologies are emerging and how disruptive they can be to the status quo e.g. autonomous vehicles will drastically change our assumptions around transport and its environmental effects.
  • That the activities in our plans are undergoing significant changes which will make our assumptions around their environmental effects outdated. Many of the fundamentals of how we live are changing dramatically e.g. mobility and transport. How do we keep our understanding of an activity current to accurately identify the effects? How do we manage the transition of these activities over time when we have to draft plans years ahead of when the activities will occur?
  • The importance of adopting and using technologies which assist us with our work or help our communities in engaging with planning processes – and the need to guide and support the community in that transition such as with the draft New Plymouth District Plan.
  • The rising role of data in planning practice – we need to keep data in a format which computers can process if we wish it to be included in new tools and apps. Nick shared with us the quote “PDF’s are where data goes to die” which is a really good way to remember the importance of data in our world. Data is definitely the fuel which makes the digital world turn.

Lots of food for thought for our profession. It will be interesting to see how these issues evolve even over the next year or two as we reach the 2020’s.





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