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John Tolva

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John Tolva

Melissa Townsend WBEZ

John Tolva is IBM's director of citizenship and technology which works with corporate, social and environmental technology projects. Emanuel named Tolva as the chief technology officer for Chicago.

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Who He Is: John Tolva runs Rahm Emanuel's computer operations as Chief Technology Officer. After receiving his master's from Georgia Tech in 1998, the Chicagoan worked at IBM for 13 years. He began in Interactive Media, building systems for live event coverage (particularly tennis, golf and the Olympics). He later worked a project for the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, digitizing thousands of works of art. He worked in Egypt during the September 11 attacks and worked on Meedan, a social network for current events in the Middle East and North Africa. He was accepted to work in IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, a service that sent teams to areas where IBM does not do business. His final project at IBM was City Forward, a project that engaged him with city leaders and the opportunity to make real technological change in Chicago.

City Salary: 154,992

Goals: Tolva, in accordance with Emanuel’s transition report, will increase transparency through the on-line posting of information that citizens need including budget documents, information on lobbyists, permitting, zoning and business license status information. He will also seek to increase broadband access, promote entrepreneurship, and make streets a platform with interaction with technology.

Challenges: Tolva will most likely have to forego upgrades to information systems given the city’s current deficit. Increasing education level on technology will also be important for creating a public interest in investment in new technology and utilizing that technology to its fullest capacity.

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