President Obama on Saturday previewed his upcoming trip to the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and called on media and high-tech entrepreneurs to become more civically engaged. 

Obama will urge rising stars from Silicon Valley and other tech bastions to tackle public policy challenges ranging from healthcare to education.


“I’m going to ask everyone for ideas and technologies that can help update our government and our democracy to be as modern and dynamic as America itself,” he said in his weekly address to the nation.

South by Southwest is an annual conference devoted to film, music, interactive media and technology. 

Obama has made technology a hallmark of his administration, sometimes with mixed success.

The rollout of his signature healthcare law in 2013 and 2014 was plagued with technological glitches, causing a public backlash that contributed to Democrats losing the Senate in the mid-term elections.

But the president said those problems have since been ironed out and touted the success of the online marketplace the federal government and states created to foster competition among insurance companies.

“After an initial false start, we’ve made it much easier for tens of millions of Americans to compare and buy health insurance and the peace of mind that goes with it,” he said.

He said greater use of technical innovation in government has made it easier for students to apply for financial aid and choose colleges, immigrants to track green-card applications and veterans to track their medical records.

In a call to service reminiscent of former President John F. Kennedy, Obama argued that how well a government serves its people largely depends on how much talented individuals contribute to the common good.

“It’s about Americans working together to make a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “Our founders trusted us with the keys to this system of self-government because it’s the best tool we’ve got to settle our differences and solve our collective challenges.  And it’s only as good as we make it.” 

He also rebuked Republicans who have consistently portrayed the country as on the verge of collapse, echoing comments he delivered Friday after the Bureau of Labor Statistics made public data showing 242,000 jobs were created in November.

“The easiest thing to do is to blame government for our problems.  Some people have made a career out of that,” he said.

In contrast to GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE, who has repeatedly claimed that the United States “doesn’t win anymore,” Obama on Friday argued, “America is pretty darn great right now.”