President Barack Obama waves during the opening day of South By Southwest at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 11, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP)
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — President Barack Obama will aim to encourage civic engagement and use of technology to solve problems, like helping needy families get diapers for their children, when he appears at a decades-old tech festival in Texas.
Obama’s appearance Friday at South by Southwest Interactive will be the first by a sitting U.S. president.
A technology lover who arranged to keep using his BlackBerry in office and is often seen using an iPad, Obama wants to talk about how the administration is using technology to help make people’s lives better, including by overhauling the government’s online processing, simplifying federal application forms and increasing access to government data.
He’ll also ask the creative types in attendance to use their know-how to help solve big problems.
An overflow crowd at the Austin Convention Center watches a simulcast of President Barack Obama giving the opening keynote at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival on Friday, March 11, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)
An example Obama likely will cite is an effort that saw online retailers, manufacturers and nonprofits come together to help poor families get a vital baby necessity: diapers. One in three U.S. families doesn’t have access to the supply of diapers they need, the White House says. The reasons are as varied as inability to make bulk purchases online at lower cost or not having enough money to buy them at the store.
Spurred by the administration, the online retailer Jet and First Quality, maker of the Cuties brand of diapers, created a program to let nonprofit organizations buy diapers at up to 25 percent cheaper than current prices, with no required minimum order and two-day shipping.
As a result, member organizations in a nationwide diaper bank are expected to order more than 15 million diapers through the program this year, according to White House estimates. These groups provide diapers to mothers and babies.
President Barack Obama talks with Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune during a South by Southwest Interactive, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
“When you have a baby, diapers are a necessity. They are not optional,” Cecilia Munoz, the president’s domestic policy adviser, wrote in an online post. “Addressing the high cost of diapers for low-income families can help to take one more burden off those families as they strive to reach the middle class, and give the next generation the great start in life that all kids deserve.”
Obama’s proposed budget for 2017 calls for spending $10 million to test different methods of getting diapers to needy families.
Before taking in the tech festival, Obama stopped at Torchy’s Tacos in Austin, where he spent $18.40 on tacos and burritos for himself and members of his staff. Obama also slipped a $20 bill into the tip jar.
South by Southwest Interactive is part of South by Southwest, a movie, music and interactive media festival held in Austin for the past 30 years.
Obama is also scheduled to headline Democratic fundraisers while in the Texas capital.
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