Six questions for the urban planner

Jonas brings a broad smart city knowledge to DKSR through his studies in urban studies and urban management. What motivated him to study and work as a student trainee? He is passionate about making cities and communities more sustainable. The record time in which he is tackling his master’s degree shows how quickly he wants to get ahead. In our conversation, he tells us what excites him about working with the public sector – and takes us on an unexpected musical journey back to the 1960s!


Jonas Merbeth

Which smart city solutions were you already familiar with through your studies?

Through my studies in urban studies at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, my current master’s degree in urban management at the Technical University of Berlin and my work as a project manager in the field of software development and various internships for the public sector, I have been able to gain many insights into various smart city solutions. The focus was always on the technical development of software solutions for a simplified planning within the offices, the focus was on the interaction between GIS components (maps) and database solutions.

The goal was always to present diverse data sources clearly on one (web)site and thus to merge existing data sets and free them from data silos. Conceptually, my studies teach me basic distinctions between data types and collection methods, as well as their evaluation and significance for urban and regional planning. My studies help me to better understand cities with all their components and to develop technical solutions to analyze them. I see use cases for almost all urban indicators (social, economic, environmental) but especially for:

  • Sustainable transport planning, Shared Mobility and implementation of the desired transport turnaround.
    –> Analysis of the actual state by means of sensors in the built environment, presentation for public authorities on websites
  • Optimized land use planning and utilization, increase of inner-city green space, avoidance of heat islands
    –> Analysis of possible potential areas by means of GIS-related evaluations, intersection with real-time data
  • Development of platforms for the public sector, inclusion of diverse data sources–> For me, smart city means focusing more on the administrative planning levels (local, regional, state, national) and developing optimized planning for these levels using digital solutions.

What do you look forward to in the morning about your work at DKSR?

What I like most about DKSR is the project-based and content-based work. I enjoy putting conceptual and theoretical content learned at university into practice at DKSR and implementing specific digital consulting and development for the public sector. I especially like the fact that many higher-level projects are realized, which can also be rolled out to other cities and municipalities once completed. The open source approach of the DKSR supports this ideology once again and illustrates the importance of the company for the digitization of diverse planning levels.

Where does (digital) consulting for administration have its limits?

I see a limit for digital consulting of the administration reached at this point, where the added value is no longer seen or wants to be seen by the public authorities. The digitization of administration should be driven forward as far as possible in all areas, but only to the point where the responsible authorities do not see any added value for themselves. Developing products and services without customers is not expedient in my view.

Which public sector job would you most like to try out for a day?

I would most like to spend a day at one of the related federal ministries, as I am particularly interested in the higher-level, conceptual work on urban and regional planning issues and all the associated topics of urban development. Specifically, I would be interested in the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK), the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV), the Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB), and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

If DKSR were a song, what would it be?

You’ll never walk alone by Garry & The Pacemakers is certainly not only a hit song of the active soccer scene of various clubs but also a symbolic song of cooperation within DKSR. Instead of delegating tasks from the top down, the DKSR works according to the bottom-up principle, looking at the wishes, needs and strengths of the individual, so that everyone can best find themselves in their role. However, if problems arise, the DKSR stands together as a team, colleagues can always be asked and are always there to help.

What is the best advice you have received from a colleague so far?

It is difficult to pick out one best piece of advice, instead I see the best advice as giving me a substantive understanding of the work of the DKSR and software development. Due to the complexity of the tasks and projects, I certainly enjoyed this help in understanding the projects and products of the DKSR the most at the beginning of my work. Particularly important was the understanding of how the DKSR’s Open Urban Platform (OUP) with its connectors can help to present diverse existing public sector data sources clearly in the form of maps, diagrams and analyses as an open backend architecture and thus provide real added value for the cities and municipalities of tomorrow.