The University of Wollongong SMART Infrastructure Facility’sVision Illawarra’ project has been awarded a funding grant that will enable the planning tool to become an effective platform across Australia.

The tool, that gives local councils access to curated utility data, demographic data, as well as transport and land use models, was identified by the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) as a High Impact Project, that was seen as a suitable program for funding. 

SMART’s Chief Operating Officer Tania Brown says Vision Illawarra will be immensely beneficial for local councils across various regions nationwide.

“This web-based regional dashboard uses data from Australian Bureau of Statistics, Remondis, Endeavour Energy and Sydney Water and enables councils to test planning policy scenarios and make evidence based decisions. With this funding we can now share Vision Illawarra with other regions across Australia.”

Vision Illawarra was one of seven High Impact Projects that were given the green light for funding. Dr Rohan Wickramasuriya, the leader of the project, says the next stage of development centres around making the tool adaptable for regions outside of the south coast.

“The idea is to package our tools in an accessible fashion and publish all the software tools needed so that other regions can build their own regional model,” he says.

“We believe that the way forward is federated data collection – our tools and protocols will act as a blueprint for other regions to follow.”

The grant will also fund research into developing capabilities to feed real time data to AURIN.

“This is the next phase of Vision Illawarra; we were lacking one critical component which was a meta-data management system – that is data describing data,” Wickramasuriya says.

“For example, potential users of our data may want to know facts such as, ‘What is the spatial area and duration covered by the data? Who is the custodian? What is the spatial resolution – suburb or postcode?’”

“The metadata system will describe these critical attributes about every data asset we host in the Vision Illawarra data repository.”

Vision Illawarra is the first – and so far the only – project in Australia of its type, in part because it’s so hard to establish long-term relationships with data providers and obtain an on-going data feed. Kiama, Wollongong and Shellharbour councils have helped with supplying data for the project, but in order for it to expand, councils from parts of the country will need to allow the program to gain access to their data sets.

“My hope is that other regions will be able to replicate this from a technical point of view, but also from the soft side of building a trusted relationship with data providers,” Dr Wickramasuriya said.

The online dashboard is a next-generation model providing a more transparent and dynamic vision of how the social and economic fabric of the Illawarra could look in the future with the modelling platform allowing subscribers to explore various scenarios.

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Image: University of Wollongong