Episode 214

Dr. Laura Dornheim on Munich's open source journey


January 5th, 2024

30 mins 49 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Dr. Laura Dornheim


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

On today’s episode of Sustain, Richard welcomes Dr. Laura Dornheim, the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the city of Munich, who discusses her coding background, role as the CDO, and Munich’s digital initiatives. The conversation dives into Munich’s past experience with the Linux based LiMux project, and its strong support for open source today. Dr. Dornheim’s balanced approach to open source, collaborations with Berlin, and the city’s open source code publication are highlighted. The discussion covers Germany’s Sovereign Tech Fund, tech understanding, and the EU’s Cyber Resilience Act. Dr. Dornheim shares her perspective on dealing with challenges in her role, her optimism, and the importance of public money and public code. Hit download now to hear more!

[00:01:17] Dr. Dornheim clarifies her coding experience and that she learned to code at a young age but never worked as a developer.

[00:02:40] Dr. Dornheim explains her role as the CDO of Munich, being responsible for all tech in the city, overseeing various digital initiatives, and moving towards a smarter city.

[00:03:55] She discusses the city’s interactions with its citizens, such as applying for passports or changing addresses through online services, and she mentions their current project of creating a digital twin of the city.

[00:06:00] The discussion shifts to the role of open source in the city of Munich, as Laura talks about Munich’s ambitious open source project to replace Microsoft Office with Linux (LiMux) and its subsequent return to Microsoft.

[00:08:54] We hear Dr. Dornheim’s approach to open source, emphasizing a balanced perspective and bridging the gap between open source supporters and opponents. She highlights successful open source implementations in the city, such as open source tools for online forms and appointment scheduling at the citizen’s office, developed collaboratively with Berlin.

[00:12:00] Richard asks about the breakdown of services that could be seen as state or federal level I the U.S. compared to Munich. Dr. Dornheim explains that in Germany, services like applying for passports are managed a local level, with 11,000 communities responsible for such processes.

[00:15:17] Richard asks how Munich ensures that the open source software it uses can be contributed to by external individuals or entities. Dr. Dornheim mentions launching an open source sabbatical to pay individuals to work on open source projects, promoting more external contributions. She also tells us where Munich’s open source code is published, primarily on GitHub and the Code platform launched by the public administration in Germany.

[00:17:42] Richard inquires about the potential for other states to contribute to Munich’s open source projects, and Dr. Dornheim explains that they have both fully open projects and smaller ones that are published but may not receive external contributions.

[00:19:15] Dr Dornheim addresses a question Richard brings up about Germany’s Sovereign Tech Fund and the push for self-sufficiency in tech. She views it as a marketing strategy for open source, emphasizing the importance of reducing dependency on a few big players.

[00:21:10] Richard mentions the EU’s Cyber Resilience Act and inquires about the concerns related to liability in open source software, and Dr. Dornheim emphasizes that the problem isn’t liability but the ability to address issues and vulnerabilities.

[00:22:46] What are some things that Dr. Dornheim is struggling with? She shares some difficulties they face such as dealing with 800 schools and day care places that run their own services, and the challenge of transitioning local politicians away from paper-based processes.

[00:26:13] Dr. Dornheim mentions that she came to open source through her engagement in politics around digital and tech issues, emphasizing the importance of public money and public code.

[00:26:55] Find out where can you interact with the City of Munich’s digital office.


[00:06:57] “If you try to brute force 40,000 people to an operating system that they’re not used to not only make friends, let’s put in that way.”

[00:07:42] “Today, open source is more alive and more supported in the city of Munich than ever. We have our own OSPO that we’re building up and growing.”

[00:16:00] “We are launching an open source sabbatical where we really want to pay people wherever they are currently employed.”

[00:18:44] “The whole aim behind open software is to make public administration more transparent and interactive because I really think it’s important that we lower this perceived barrier between the people and the state.”


  • [00:28:02] Richard’s spotlight is Raphaël Nussbaumer, and eBird reviewer in Switzerland.
  • [00:28:42] Dr. Dornheim’s spotlight is Miriam Seyffarth from the Open Source Business Alliance in Berlin.



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