The CityLAB at #rp23

30.05.2023 - CityLab Berlin creates space for innovations in digital transformation. Now it is coming to Berlin's neighbourhoods.

In the CityLAB, innovations and participation are planned together in order to shape the digital transformation of Berlin for the benefit of all. In an interview with re:publica, director Benjamin Seibel gives a first insight:

What is the role of CityLAB Berlin?

CityLAB is a public innovation laboratory experimenting with new technologies and ways of improving life in the city. 

The results can take quite different forms – that may be a website supporting citizens’ and district offices with watering city trees. Or, for instance, a new procedure for granting appointments in citizens’ offices

What is important is a hands-on approach, that means not to meditate too long but go ahead and try things out to gather practical experience about what can work. In order to be able to respond to needs fast and flexibly, there are dedicated prototyping and service design teams.

Furthermore, we work in a very participatory way. After all, it is about finding solutions that will work for as many people as possible in the city. We also understand ourselves to be a public place and a platform for the many city stakeholders who want to change something – whether in the administration, as start-ups or as citizens’ initiatives.

The CityLAB is a non-profit project, run by the Technologiestiftung Berlin and financed by the Berlin Senate Chancellery

Benjamin Seibel
Benjamin Seibel, Director of the CityLAB

 How does prototyping a digital civic service work?

For us it is very important to first thoroughly understand the problem and not to turn up prematurely with a solution. With the citizens’ offices project, for example, we immersed ourselves in the everyday life of the authorities, observing processes on the spot and holding interviews with employees and clients. 

Starting from the needs discovered in this way, we developed digital prototypes for a check-in system, which allows more flexibility in arranging appointments. A test showed that the appointment capacity was then raised by about ten percent. 

So prototyping is not so much about developing ready-made solutions but initially about learning effects: can it work? What needs to be improved? If a test gives a positive result, we work on disseminating the solutions widely.  

You are near the festival grounds with a new neighbourhood laboratory. What is that?

The Kiezlabor is a ship container rebuilt into a tiny house with which we bring our participation offerings directly into the Berlin neighbourhoods. Over the summer we will be present at various locations in the city to introduce our work and invite people to help develop it. During re:publica we will have a stand at Flutgraben (in front of the Kreuzberg festival hall - Festsaal) and ask “What does the city cost?” with several activities to communicate the issues. 

What is Berlin exhibiting at the re:publica?

We are delighted that the State of Berlin will have a strong presence on the festival grounds this time. Various Senate administrations will be demonstrating their digitisation projects at a joint stand. Also, in the “Berlin Laboratory”, there will be a programme on all three days, including projects from the CityLAB and presenting the new Berlin Open Data Strategy.