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Govt taps tech heads for city advice

AAP logoAAP 14/12/2016 Sarah McPhee

Bright Aussies with bright ideas are being urged to put their heads together to transform Australian cities.

From apps that record pot holes to street lights that monitor pollution levels, the federal government is seeking innovative project proposals as part of its $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor says smart technologies can play a big role in improving infrastructure and planning.

Eligible applicants - including large service providers, NGOs and entrepreneurs - have until January 20 to apply for up to $5 million in federal project funding.

"They may have something new they want to test here. The money is there to do it," Mr Taylor told AAP.

"We'll hit the go button early in the New Year."

Mr Taylor hopes Australians will be inspired by similar projects overseas, including New York City's replacement of pay phones with wi-fi hotspots and Shanghai's street lights that act as charging points for electric vehicles.

Lighting Council Australia chief executive Bryan Douglas said the program could expand on current technologies and alleviate some of the problems associated with urbanisation.

He said sophisticated sensors on street lights can detect a decrease in traffic flow and dim lights to save energy, while monitors attached to light poles track pollution levels and divert traffic away from troubling areas.

"The real human benefit of this technology is making cities more liveable," Mr Douglas told AAP.

However, with an increase in data-gathering capabilities comes the need for updated regulation.

Mr Taylor said regulatory barriers remain a challenge for the government, as seen with the rise of ride-sharing application Uber and homestay network Airbnb, but they are conscious of the need for change.

"This is a space in which you're constantly surprised," he said.

"You might have a sense of the big themes but you can never guess the details of how they unfold, and that's what exciting about it."

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