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CityLAB Berlin

The CityLAB Berlin is a central place at which various participants can become involved and exchange ideas on topics related to "Smart City Berlin". Together with public administration and experts, the urban society develops ideas and propose solutions for the (digital) challenges of the city and its administration. Various formats such as co-working, discussion events, hackathons, think tanks, experimental labo­ratories and exhibition areas will be possible. Synergy effects are to be created and used.

Smart cities are using technology and smart solutions to make urban tasks more efficient and better, conserve resources and improve the quality of life for their residents. The CityLAB Berlin should act as a service provider and thought leader for city and city society alike.

The establishment of a Berlin City Laboratory (CityLAB) is part of the 10-point agenda for digitisation, which was jointly developed and formulated by politics, business and science in the last legislative period.

Interview by Frauke Nippel, Communications and Public Relations of the Technology Foundation Berlin (TSB) with Dr. Ing. Frank Nägele, State Secretary for Administrative and Infrastructure Modernization / Growing City in the Berlin Senate Chancellery. The focus of the interview is the role of CityLAB for the modernization of administration.

"CityLAB is also a hub for the modernization of the Berlin administration"

The CityLAB Berlin, operated by the TSB in cooperation with the Berlin Senate Chancellery, is part of the Future Pact Administration, which was closed by the Senate and districts in May 2019. The Future Pact Administration speaks of a massive change in the framework conditions for the public administration, which leads to an enormous need for adjustment. What role should CityLAB play in this context?

The CityLAB is also creating a public administration manufactory where we want to try out something new. Every day, administrative employees experience digitization besides their profession, use digital tools, for example, carry out their private correspondence virtually without paper. Then they come to the office and things are still done there like they have been for a long time, digitization hardly matters. Many in the administration understand that this has to change. They are ready for change. But the administration can not organize change processes as the startup scene can. Startups have a large tolerance for mistakes and failures. That's different in the administration. Administrations are designed to work error-free. That's why they are basically cautious, even averse to change. With the CityLAB the Berlin administration gets a protected space in which one can dare to question existing processes, to bring in own ideas and to consult experts for the conversion. I want CityLAB to be a hub where we can think ahead of the digital transformation. It is also possible in the CityLAB exchange with startups and citizens. But what is important to me is that there will be no preliminary discussion and feedback on the ideas that are being introduced.

Even failure is seen in our manufactory as part of the development process and is not a problem. Where interesting ideas arise, I can also imagine a follow-up in terms of financing, for the design of a prototype and for the practical test. Of course, after the work in the LAB we have to examine in a manageable space how the designed changes work out in practice.

How does that look in practice? Can I contact you and suggest a topic for a project in the LAB?

Yes, all senate and district administrations can register for workshops, it should become colourful. The overarching topics are processes and structures. In the CityLAB work on their optimization. We need a fast and profound change. In the future, we will have to accompany the continuing dynamic development in the city with fewer staff. 

The first projects are already running. For example, CityLAB is involved in the project PARI - Process Analysis Rad Infrastructure - with the processes and procedures leading to the approval of cycle paths. The new mobility law provides for additional cycle paths in the city. The question that PARI is going to ask is how can processes and procedures be designed to get these bike paths fast?

The Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection approached us for the project. But CityLAB is also open to everyone else. For example, I could imagine that in the LAB processes with a lot of clients can be examined. What can be done online, what really needs to be done in a personal conversation and on paper?

You speak of CityLAB as a protected space for administration. At the same time there is a generally accessible exhibition in H2rund. How does it fit together?

The CityLAB has four functions: In addition to the adminstration management manufactory, there is also a workshop on site, which seeks as the scientific institutions and initiatives of the city can contribute and work for the digitization of Berlin. Third, there is the meeting point CityLAB, where the actors can network with each other.

And there is the exhibition, which we opened together with CityLAB on June 12th. The exhibition is open weekdays between 10 and 17 o'clock. We work to realize opening hours on the week end. All Berliners are cordially invited to inform themselves in the exhibition about digitization projects for Berlin.

[Original release here: https://www.technologiestiftung-berlin.de/de/blog/das-citylab-ist-auch-eine-schaltstelle-fuer-die-modernisierung-der-berliner-verwaltung/?pk_campaign=Juli%202019&pk_kwd=1]