Fostering Innovation in the Public Sector: Vivek Kundra@US Government

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : LDEN064 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Organizational Behavior / Public Sector Innovation / IT & Systems

Case Length : 22 Pages
Period : 2007-2009
Pub Date : 2009
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : US government / District of Columbia government
Industry : Public Sector
Countries : USA


This case is about Vivek Kundra (Kundra) who was appointed as the first ever Federal CIO of the US in March 2009. Before this assignment, Kundra had had a less than two-year reign as the CTO at District of Columbia (DC), but during this time, he had ushered in a new era of experimentation by democratizing data and providing an open, participatory government wherein citizens could access government data and hold the government accountable for its operations. The case discusses how Kundra overcame certain challenges and fostered innovation in the DC government. He incorporated technology in all of the government's operations in order to develop a user friendly e-government infrastructure and to provide public safety and educational and economic growth opportunities for the citizens, businesses, and visitors in the district.

He democratized the government data to make the operations of the government transparent to the public. He introduced several information technology (IT) initiatives in the district so that citizens could access government services easily. In doing so he made good use of emerging media such as social media and other consumer technologies. Costs and time frames for introducing services were drastically reduced through the use of open source technology and user-generated applications. For instance, in 2008, under Kundra's leadership, a contest called "Apps for Democracy" was introduced wherein software developers used the open data technology to create useful applications for the citizens of the district. He also put in place a stock market-like model for evaluating IT projects that attracted the attention of analysts.

Kundra's initiatives received recognition from several quarters - both he and his office won a number of prestigious awards. While his detractors felt that democratizing data would contravene data security, lead to misuse of information, and contribute to the 'digital divide', others felt that Kundra had negotiated the challenges of fostering innovation in a government organization quite well and had demonstrated good leadership in the process. The crowing glory for him came with his appointment to the newly-created position of Federal CIO in early 2009.

Kundra planned to bring in a similar change at the national level by making the operations of the government more transparent and interoperable, while also safeguarding it from cyber threats. However, experts felt that Kundra would have to overcome many challenges in fostering innovation and change in his new role. They felt that despite his success at the DC government, implementing similar strategies at the national level would be a daunting task, involving as it did a huge IT budget spread across several agencies and departments. And doing so at a time when the country was facing some tough challenges due to wars and the economic crisis would make it all the more difficult.


Understand the issues and constraints faced by a public sector organization/governmental organization in fostering innovation.
Understand the issues and constraints in planning and harnessing the power of information technology (IT) in providing better governance.
Understand the issues and challenges faced by the government in democratizing data and incorporating technology into its operations.
Understand the strategic role of the CIO and how the role and challenges change for a CIO in the public sector.
Study how Vivek Kundra (Kundra) unleashed the innovation potential of IT and fostered innovation in the District of Columbia (DC) government.
Understand the challenges faced by Kundra in his new role as the first ever Federal CIO of the US government and explore ways in which he could overcome these challenges.


  Page No.
Introduction 1
About Vivek Kundra 3
Kundra@DC 3
Results 10
New Role for Kundra 12
Looking Ahead 13
Exhibits 14


Public Sector Innovation, Information Technology initiatives, Public Sector CIO, Leadership & Change Management, Digital Democracy, e-governance, Digital Public Square, OCTO, Stock Market Model, Data catalogs, DC Web portal, Data feeds, Apps for Democracy, DC-Net, Citywide Data Warehouse, CapStat Website, Vivek Kundra, DC Public Schools (DCPS), Transparency, DCpedia, Technological initiatives, Cloud Computing, Open source technology, Digital divide, Democratizing data

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