US Digital Services

Live from Austin, President Obama interviewed by Evan Smith, CEO / Editor in Chief of The Texas Tribune, during the Keynote at SXSW Interactive. Discussing the convergence of technology into the government, Obama even addressed the healthcare website dropping when it launched. Turns out that going down as it did actually prompted the creation of a SWAT team of tech professionals from around the country to come in and fix it. Obama pointed out how it proved how we could build a world class technology office inside of government. The office that was set up is called US Digital Services. It pulls in top tech company talent from around the country. He expects to institutionalize this office for continuous improvement in the digital space.

president obama motorcade

President Obama waving from the motorcade on his trip to Austin

Our country makes it harder for people to vote

The President mentions how the US is one of the most advanced democracies in the world and yet we actually make it more difficult to vote. Technology is all part of this equation and a very important piece for making this process of registration and voting a lot easier and more effective. A particularly relevant factor given the low voting rate inside the state of Texas, where he was speaking for this event.

In defense of government

In addition, the President laid out case for the defense of government, not from other countries, but as a case to our own people who have gotten frustrated. There seemed to be some frustration from the President as well that, although so many features that citizens enjoy are delivered by the government, this sentiment still persists. His underlying plea was to keep citizens participating in the process of helping to make the government work and that government should do a better job of facilitating it all. The discussion then shifted towards how we need to start by moving all communities into the same place in terms of their use of technology like high speed Internet access. This is seen as a shortcoming compared to many other countries around the world who enjoy better high speed connectivity.

One of the biggest applause came as the President mentioned the #thanksObama hashtag as he referred to some of the developments which have come as the result of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare”. The President proposed that we must connect around technology and social media to focus on the biggest problems that the government is facing. He closed by asking American the people to get involved.

It is a very exciting event to have the first President ever to speak at SXSW, right here in our backyard. We are hoping that this presidential visit at such an influential technology event will resonate across the Austin tech scene and to the broader US technology sector as a whole.

Not much more impressive than a Presidential Motorcade

Regardless of what he or she will actually say, having a sitting President in town is always an interesting spectacle in itself. How often in a lifetime do you get to see a Presidential motorcade live and in person? Exactly what I thought! This is why I made it a point to head a few blocks down from the Ihiji downtown Austin offices to track down some footage as President Obama headed over to the Austin Music Hall. They don’t announce the exact route, but given Austin’s threat risk, I guessed they were not doing a lot of zigzags or doubling back on the short trip from the Long Center just south of the river. In any case, I was able to position myself to get a very good shot of the motorcade as it made the corner onto 3rd street and over to his fundraiser at the Music Hall.




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