“Reinventing Chicago” Preview: John Tolva
CNT’s upcoming event, Reinventing Chicago: What’s Technology Got To Do with It? features talks from experts such as CNT’s own President Scott Bernstein, seminal architect and urban planner Andrés Duany, and the Chief Technology Officer for the City of Chicago John Tolva. We are enthusiastically looking forward to John’s speech because, ever since taking the position of CTO in May 2011, John has worked tirelessly for a more free and open method of storing city data, which allows for the development of tools and online applications that use this data and support sustainable lifestyles and choices.
John began his career in information technology at IBM, as a manager of Corporate Community Relations, focusing on projects concerned with cultural heritage. Most notable of his projects while there were the site of the Hermitage State Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in which visitors can search through and view more than 5,000 masterpieces; and Eternal Egypt, a multimedia re-creation of artifacts, monuments, and historical events that “weave together seven millennia of Egyptian culture and civilization.”
In 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he was choosing John as his administration’s CTO. This came after an election won partly on a technology-based promise for open government: in a city notorious for corruption, Tolva’s new job was to implement interactive technology and tools to make the city’s government more transparent and trustworthy. The progress John’s made toward this goal can be seen already on the city’s data portal, but John’s also been working on making this data easy to use, not just access.
John has been responsible for the creation of a number of new tools for residents of Chicago to keep track of city data online. One very useful cluster of projects was Chicago Shovels, a new series of mobile and desktop applications for use in Chicago’s reckonable winter months. Some of the apps featured included Plow Tracker, an app that tracked the location of the city’s snowplows to allow users to do a better job of clearing the curbs of cars for them, and Adopt-a-Sidewalk, a social networking and crowdsourcing app that allows users to either take responsibility for shoveling a particular sidewalk or request help keeping one clear. These sorts of tools are excellent examples of creative, useful ways for citizens of Chicago to use data for their benefit.
This experience with app development and open information is a major factor in our enthusiasm for John’s talk: the Reinventing Chicago conversation precedes CNT’s first Sustainability Hackathon, in which coders and developers from all over the city will collaborate to use CNT’s data and models to come up with brand new online tools and apps to support sustainability. The Hackathon’s participants will draw from the topics raised by our speakers, and with input from Scott Bernstein and Andrés Duany and experience in app development from John Tolva, we’re hoping that some very exciting ideas will be generated for the hackers to turn into realities.
To CNT, John Tolva represents the best of our leaders in creating a new technology- and information-based economy. This progressive thinking was honored earlier this week when he was named one of the White House’s Champions of Change. We’re very excited to have him as part of our conversation.
Reinventing Chicago will take place on Thursday, October 4 at Red Frog Events in Chicago. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date on information about the event. For sponsorship and ticket information, visit the event’s page or contact Nicole Gotthelf.