The Australian government’s new Smart Cities Plan: National Cities Performance Framework identified “professional networks” as one indicator for measuring the progress of Australia’s largest cities.
It has based the indicator on social media data gathered from LinkedIn. This is the first case of government really using social media data to gauge the impact of urban policy on traditionally hard-to-measure issues.
What is the data?
The framework defines professional networks as:
… the average ratio of workers’ LinkedIn connections in: the same city; other parts of Australia; and overseas.
It is based on the premise that knowing a city’s professional network ratio helps to understand how connected its inhabitants are to other markets, customers and ideas – all of which support innovation, adaptation and city growth.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional online network; it has more than 500 million members in more than 200 countries. In Australia alone, more than 9 million people have a LinkedIn profile: this is almost 75% of the working-age population.
The Regional Australia Institute and LinkedIn since 2016 have mapped data on local skills and job mobility of workers in eight regional Australian cities: Townsville, Sunshine Coast-Noosa, Greater Newcastle, Wollongong, Launceston, Darwin, Geelong and Hobart.
This work has been providing local leaders with critical near-time data on the skills, connections and mobility of their workers.
What do the data tell us?
Network data tell us how one node or person is connected to another. There are many different types of links, such as personal, professional, business, financial, or friends.
Your professional network is the people you do business with, learn from, get inspired by, or who may have snuck in under false pretences.
Depending on who you are, your professional network may or may not include family and friends. It may or may not be up to date, and it certainly is not the same for everyone.
We are looking at a city’s professional network, not individuals. So, it is an amalgamation of people who together form a city’s professional network.
For the eight cities in these reports, a general trend is that the average number of connections per member increases with city size.
But every city has a mix of local connections, national connections and international connections. The government is particularly interested in this breakdown of data when measuring city performance.
For the first time we can see what these data look like for eight regional cities. The data show that Newcastle and Hobart are very inwardly connected (31% and 32% local connections), while Darwin and Sunshine Coast (27% and 25%) are very internationally connected for Australian regional cities.
Authors: Leonie Pearson, Adjunct Associate, University of Canberra