Research report

The knowledge city index: a tale of 25 cities in Australia 2017

27 Jul 2017

The nature of work is changing. For some workers, it is the best of times, as their knowledge, skills and creativity become increasingly valuable and combine to make them more prosperous. For others, however, it is the worst of times, as their hard-won skills and occupational practice become increasingly irrelevant or obsolete. In many sectors of our economy, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and machine learning will make more and more jobs redundant, or at least change them fundamentally (Frey & Osborne, 2013). Moreover, it is not just unskilled or semi-skilled workers who face these threats from new technologies and the changing nature of work. Increasingly, many skilled and professional occupations are being affected by these same technologies and their associated economic and social transformations, leading some to question the very future of many professions (Susskind & Susskind, 2015). It is predicted that roughly half of the jobs that currently exist in developed economies could be automated or otherwise made redundant by 2030 (Frey & Osborne, 2015).

But the future of work is not necessarily bleak. As some occupations are replaced by technologies, others are likely to emerge in the new economies that open up. However, the new occupations will require different sets of skills from the past, and will be focused around new forms of industry and production. In short, those occupations that will advance in the near future will be in the information and knowledge areas. They require human creativity and interpretation rather than the repeated application of rules, and require the more nuanced interpersonal skills that technologies are still not capable, and seem unlikely ever, of replicating.

How will the changing nature of work and the transformation enabled by new technologies and the knowledge economy play out in Australia? We know which types of jobs are most likely to decline and we have some sense of what types of jobs, or at least which sectors, are likely to be most resilient. But this dichotomy of decline and resilience is not equally distributed across the geography of Australian cities. Some Australian cities are well positioned to grow and advance in the emerging technology-driven and knowledge-based economy, but others lack the infrastructure and capacity to resist and survive the impacts of technological redundancy. Just like for individual workers, for some Australian cities it promises to be ‘the best of times’, but for many others it would appear to be ‘the worst of times’.

To better understand these impacts on our cities and inform our policy and planning responses, this report builds a knowledge cities index (KCI) for Australian cities. We examine a total of 25 cities in the country and analyse each of them according to its knowledge capital (the underlying knowledge infrastructure of a city) and knowledge economy (the knowledge activation within a city). We combine six different measures through a data standardisation process, in order to give a comparative overview of all 25 cities. In doing so, we employ an innovative approach to Australian cities that provides a unique understanding of how the changing nature of work is impacting different urban areas in different ways. This framework is both extendable to comparative analysis of cities in other countries and repeatable over time in order to understand how cities are changing over time.


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