John Tolva Chicago, USA

  • Chief Technology Officer of the City of Chicago (2011-13)
  • White House Champion of Change (2012)
  • 13 years of managerial roles at IBM


Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff, picked John Tolva as the City of Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer because of his profound understanding of IT systems and new technologies. Here he was tasked with leveraging technology to ensure that Chicago delivers better services at a lower cost to taxpayers. John’s experience at Chicago gives him unique insight into how the world’s great cities will deliver public services and security to their citizens through the twenty first century.

From 1998 to 2011 John worked for IBM, mostly on applications of technology in cultural, social, and environmental domains. His team developed programs that performed a wide range of tasks, ranging from contributing idle processing power to the search for a cure to HIV to matching employees with community volunteer opportunities.

Whilst at IBM, John also served as the Director of Citizenship & Technology where he led the City Forward project, a public analytics site for city data worldwide. This involved working on the tech giant’s “smarter cities” project, advising mayors how to better take advantage of technology.

In 2006, John was honoured as one of “40 Under 40” in the business community by Crain’s Chicago Business. In 2007, the small town of Barile (Italy) recognized John as a distinguished “fellow citizen” for his work to promote the region and cultural heritage in general.

John is currently President of a clean tech engineering firm – PositivEnergy Practice – which specialises in planning and engineering large-scale building projects, with an emphasis on clean technology.

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