“I like an excuse to come to Austin,” said President Obama jokingly as he sat down to speak with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune at SXSW Interactive for a special discussion on the importance of civic engagement and the potential role technology can play in increasing political participation.
With a lottery in place, the lucky badge holders who were able to score a ticket happily waited in the line that looped around The Long Center in downtown Austin for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
As the keynote speaker for the leading festival highlighting innovative brands from around the globe, President Obama used the platform to advocate for better access to online resources for voters.
“We systematically put up barriers and make it harder for citizens to vote,” said Obama. “It’s easier to order a pizza!”
Realizing the need for easier voting and resources, Obama is calling upon the tech industry to seek solutions to turn his vision into a reality. Keeping these goals in mind, the President sees the future of tech integration in government in three key ways:
1) Improving the government through tech/digital platforms:
Under the Obama Administration, the student aid FAFSA forms went digital, where students were able to apply for financial aid online, providing a much easier solution and reducing the paperwork. However, the President asks how we can make things even better.
2) Tackle BIG problems in NEW ways:
We have the capacity to cure diseases because of research from data. The President wants to keep the momentum going so we can keep gathering significant data from all over the country to tackle the big problems.
3) Big Data:
The President outlined how big data can make civic participation easier for all, and wants to see it integrated into voting initiatives to better empower voters to make more informed decisions at the polls.
At the end of the discussion, it all boiled down to participation and collaboration. “Whatever your passions are, concerns are, we need you,” concluded the President.