Obama: Why Silicon Valley and US government need to buddy up

Former President Barack Obama has urged the technology sector to get friendly with the government in order to keep innovation

Speaking at the Oktane18 event attended by TechRadar Pro in Las Vegas earlier this week, the 44th President outlined that the two sides need to work more closely to ensure a profitable future.

"It is in the interest of all of us for there to be a good conversation between the tech community and the people in Washington, and create a structure of ongoing deliberation and exchange,” the former President said.

“Right now the technology industry believes this is inefficient and…just go to do our own thing,” he added, “that doesn't help anybody."

One area that could benefit hugely from this closer partnership is online voting. The debate around a possible introduction of an online voting system has rumbled on for some time, and the former President said he supported introducing such a platform – not least to make voting easier and more inclusive.

Calling for “simple things” that don’t require outstanding encryption and authentication processes, President Obama hailed technology as the answer, noting that, “if we can secure the voting process – and have a paper record generated, it should be something that should be considered.”

During his chat with Okta CEO Todd McKinnon, President Obama, who is set to a new Netflix series soon, also highlighted the issues concerning online security – particularly safeguarding people’s online identity.

“All of us are trying to shape and absorb information in ways that can be confusing,” President Obama said. 

“If you ask people in Washington DC what identity means, they may well first describe their racial identity. By definition (Americans) are a nation of people that came from everywhere else. I think the big challenge we have today is how do we maintain a sense of common purpose rather than splinter or divide.”

“We are seeing this debated on social media every day, but if we don’t figure it out then our society and democracy may not survive.”

Revealing that life outside the Presidency was like the end of famous sci-fi film The Matrix, President Obama called for more pragmatism when it comes to balancing a digital and online life, particularly as the world as we know it is evolving with the embracing of technology.

"Change is hard,” he said, “it's hard for society to change, particularly when change is happening so rapidly.”

"We live in a culture where everybody feels the "crush of information" and collision of worlds,” he said, “it's disruptive in a way previous generations didn't experience."

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