New York, Beijing, Adelaide. A small city’s strong position to steer a big data solution as its economy reopens from the pandemic

Australia’s fifth largest city, with just over one million residents, is set to become the world’s “idea incubator” through a collaboration with the world’s highest ranking university Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Adelaide, South Australia – recognised for its highly successful Coronavirus suppression campaign – is perfectly positioned to leverage big data to reopen safely and drive sustainable population,  economic, health and transport solutions, says MIT professor Sandy Pentland.

Adelaide is the latest MIT Living Lab to launch alongside sister Labs in Beijing, New York and Istanbul.

Professor Pentland, one of the world’s best known and respected data scientists, says work done in Adelaide will inform how governments and businesses world-wide can reopen safely, while getting on with reducing inequalities in transport and services as cities expand.

“The idea of Adelaide as an idea incubator for the world is something I think will really resonate,’’ Prof Pentland says.

“It has agile government willing to try new ways of doing things, the hi-tech community and universities to do it  – and is located in Asia so it’s connected to the most rapidly changing part of the planet, safe from pandemic and very stable.’’

The Lab brings together government, researchers and businesses – BankSA, mobile services provider Optus, DSpark, University of Adelaide’s Institute of Machine Learning and a variety of tech start-up companies – to develop policies and products from the huge quantities of data generated by devices such as mobile phones, banking services and satellite imagery.

South Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment David Ridgway says, after the pandemic, access to invaluable data to identify how to drive sustainable population growth, create jobs and strengthen the economy, will be particularly important.

“The Living Lab will utilise MIT’s world leading secure data analysis tools and methodology to ensure data privacy is maintained,” Minister Ridgway says.

“Private and public organisations will be able to safely and securely analyse data to identify growth opportunities, improve government decision making and improve socio-economic outcomes.”

Prof Pentland cited an example of opening up transport, health and other services from the pandemic and managing second and third waves of infections through clever analysis of data.

“One of the things that’s unique and worth emphasising about South Australia is that everybody’s on the same team. You’re cooperating because you trust each other,’’ he says.

“The Living Lab is capitalising on that spirit of cooperation with banks, medical people, telcos and government-  all contributing data so that we can look where the disease is likely to go.

“As South Australia reopens, it will get new cases but the data resources that come from the Living Lab will allow us to predict how the disease may spread – not the fine-grained person to person contact tracing  – but knowing the general patterns of how people move in a neighbourhood or region to target potential clusters.”

Adelaide, home to one of five Joint Cyber Security Centres with the Australian government, is also favoured as a base for cybersecurity companies.

NOTE MEDIA. Interviews with – and additional comments from – Professor  Sandy Pentland (in Boston) can be arranged via Chris Rann

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