The future of a Digital CBD: Melbourne & Beyond

The future of a Digital CBD: Melbourne & Beyond

New report says Melbourne is perfectly placed to re-imagine itself through a Digital CBD.

Imagine working or living in a smart, interactive, digital CBD, where, for example, a cafe on the ground floor of a high-rise building can use real-time data to ascertain how many workers will be in the building on any given day? In response, the outlet can plan their inventory and perishable stock, and roster on staff accordingly, thereby reducing food wastage and overheads.

This is just one example, outlined in a new report and released on Wednesday by RMIT University, of how reimaging Melbourne as a ‘Digital CBD’ could reinvigorate the city and bring enormous benefits to the businesses, organisations, customers and citizens who engage with it.

The report — Building a Digital CBD: Melbourne and Beyond — by RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, the Centre for Cyber Security Research & Innovation and the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, aims to provide a roadmap and strategic analysis of how Melbourne can be reimagined and reinvented as a digital economy and digital society, following the massive shock to our city over the past two years.

It is the first in a series of five reports, which will make up the Victorian government-funded Digital Infrastructure and Digital CBD Project.

Co-author of the report and Co-Director of the Blockchain Innovation Hub, Distinguished Professor Jason Potts, said the twin shocks of COVID-19 and rapidly accelerated technology adoption have impacted workplaces and work practices, supply chains and the wider economy and radically changed our experiences of everyday life, including the way we engage with our cities.

He said the report aimed to respond to those shocks, by outlining opportunities for a digital CBD as part of the development of a digital roadmap for Victoria, and at a time when Australia  is transitioning from an industrial economy to a digital one.

“These twin shocks will permanently restructure the economy,” Potts said. 

“COVID-19 impacts have accelerated this transition, but the foundations of digitisation, globalisation, and innovation have been accumulating and assembling for the last two decades.”

“One aspect of research from this report will look into the interaction of people in the city centre as they combine their social and culture lifestyles with the layers of technology that is required to run a successful, thriving and liveable digital city,” he said.   

“Amidst the disruption and uncertainty is a great opportunity to accelerate into the future by building on new knowledge and capabilities.”

While the first report sets the scene for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in relation to infrastructure demands, cyber security issues, supply chains and digital skills, it finds that Melbourne is in a perfect position to develop a Digital CBD to power a 21st century economy.

In subsequent reports, the authors will seek to consider a range of scenarios for a ‘Digital CBD,’ including:

  • Interconnected CBD precincts that diffuse into regions or sub-cities;

  • A 15 or 20 minute CBD;

  • Repurposed real estate; 

  • Public spaces/events and crypto economics such as tokenised incentives; 

  • Re-skilling workers, including in cybersecurity capabilities, to transition from an industrial to a digital economy, and from a Melbourne CBD to a Digital CBD. 

Deputy Vice- Chancellor of RMIT’s College of Business and Law at RMIT, Professor Julie Cogin said RMIT is a microcosm of the Melbourne CBD, and well-placed to provide large-scale research into opportunity areas for a Digital CBD.

“As a land owner and larger employer, RMIT has a shared interest in ensuring the city is successful,” Cogin said.   

“This project plays a key role in the reinvention of the city as a human-centred digital technology infrastructure,” she said.

The first report, commissioned by the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF), is available for download from 1 December, 2021.

The following reports, also commissioned by VHESIF, will be published over the coming six months.


About the project

RMIT Research Centres – the Blockchain Innovation Hub, Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation and the Digital Ethnography Research Centre — have come together to conduct large scale research into the acceleration of digital technology directly impacted by Covid-19 and consequently, the opportunity areas for a digital CBD.

More information:


For interviews contact RMIT Communications, or +61 439 704 077

01 December 2021


01 December 2021


  • Science and technology
  • Blockchain

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.