For the first time ever in its 30-year history, a sitting president spoke at South by Southwest.
President Obama walked on stage as a keynote speaker to open the Interactive section of the SXSW Festival on Friday, March 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas where he talked about 21st century civic engagement alongside the founder, editor, and CEO of Texas Tribune, Evan Smith. Not only was this awesome because of our amazing president, but also because he is the first president to ever deliver a keynote address at the South by Southwest Conference.
Before having an impactful conversation with Smith, he stopped by Torchy’s, a famous taco restaurant in the state’s capital and ordered a Democrat (shredded beef barbacoa topped with avocado, queso fresco, cilantro, onions, and a wedge of lime), Republican (grilled jalapeno sausage, shredded cheese and Pico de Gallo), and an independent (hand-battered and fried Portobello mushroom strips with refried black beans, roasted corn, escabeche carrots, queso fresco, cilantro, and avocado).
POTUS went on to discuss how we are living in a world where technology and globalization are converging, which influences our economy to change so quickly, and that was one of the reasons why so many people are brought together at SXSW. At this point, technology has become disruptive in the way that we operate, especially in government because this is a time where every message is getting diffused across the globe in no time.
The three points that he delivered during his speech focused on government and technology’s mash-up.
- How can we make government work better through technology and digital platforms?
- How can we tackle big problems in new ways?
- How can we ensure that we are using big data and analytics to make civic participation easier?
He emphasized the importance of being a democracy and using the powers that are attached to this government correctly. “The most important office in a democracy is the office of the citizen.” Alongside that, he also talked about how government and technology were not culturally similar with regards to their makeup, and how he was bridging that gap.
He is building a SWAT team of world-class tech people that work across different agencies, and they work under the name “US Digital Services” for a time between 6 months to 2 years. These people are also the best tech workers from Facebook, Google, Silicon Valley, and Austin.
During the rest of the 52-minute speech, he talked about the Apple v. FBI lawsuit, the digital divide and access that happens amongst Latino communities, and the issues around voting and why it needs to be an easier process.
See the video for yourself below.
(Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SXSW)