Exclusive Interview: John Tolva, Chicago's new tech guru, has watched with pride as city residents -- many of them young would-be entrepreneurs -- have competed to create apps and websites using data recently opened to public use by the city, Cook County, the state and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
So what's Tolva's dream app? One that would tell him in real time when the bus and train are coming to his stop and at the same time alerting him to the nearest taxi and open parking spots. On a 20-below-zero day, the app would let Tolva and everyone else choose the quickest route to warmth. During the summer, the app could be used to find where rental bikes are available throughout the city.
What's next for app developers? Open 311. It is a platform that will let software developers come up with apps to allow people to use their smartphones and computers to track services such as pothole repairs and watch how and when they are fulfilled.
Tolva talked first to the Sun-Times just days after he started his city job. He wants Chicago to become known as the Digital Second City.
"Forget thinking about computers or even websites. We want to think of the city itself as a platform for interaction -- as a computing platform," said Tolva, the city's new chief technology officer and a fourth-generation Chicagoan who previously worked as IBM's director of citizenship and technology.
In the short run, a digital Chicago could enable people to receive city services faster, see how efficiently a government agency is working or receive wirelessly and in real time a variety of transit options for running an errand.