The SXSW festival and conference series has undoubtedly cemented itself as one of the most important and inclusive events in the country. With nearly 30 years under its belt and a continually expanding schedule and list of performing and speaking acts, it has drawn reputable figures of all types from around the globe to contribute to the roster. None, however, match up to the festival’s most recent interview subject.
The Austin, Texas-based series is divided into several subsections, including SXSW Music, SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive, the latter of which focuses on technology-centered conferences that serve as platforms for the spread and discussion of new, emerging ideas. This year, as part of SXSW Interactive’s line up, President Obama became the very first sitting president to ever visit the festival. In a nearly hour-long interview with founder and editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune Evan Smith, Obama delves into the concept of government and tech industry collaboration, and what it spells for the country’s future.
As someone who based much of his initial campaigns on heightened social media usage and a close relationship with the technological advances of the 21st century, Obama’s knowledge of society’s civic engagement with emerging technology is all too valuable to hear. During the interview, he discusses the importance of voter participation and technology’s role in creating a potential online voting process. He touches on the public’s perception of government as attained through tedious interactions with the DMV or IRS, and how, with technology’s help, he’d like to shift our mentality to include the useful and up-to-date efforts of other government bodies. He covers the developments happening within ConnectED, a program that is making strides toward providing 99% of classrooms with high-speed internet access to keep up with the country’s quickly evolving tide. Finally, he stresses the idea that reforming and updating our current systems must be an active, inclusive process that encourages the public to inform and involve themselves in their reshaping.
Watch the full conversation below.