SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – President Barack Obama Thursday headed west to meet the cream of Silicon Valley business titans, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, to seek input on how to speed up job growth and economic recovery.
Obama was to dine with a small group of tech sector leaders also including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo president and CEO Carol Bartz, Twitter CEO Dick Costello and Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt.
“The meeting is a part of our ongoing dialogue with the business community on how we can work together to win the future, strengthen our economy, support entrepreneurship, increasing our exports, and get the American people back to work,” a White House official said.
“The president and the business leaders will discuss our shared goal of promoting American innovation, and discuss his commitment to new investments in research and development, education and clean energy.”
The meeting will take place amid renewed speculation about the health of Jobs, who last month embarked on his third medical leave from Apple since 2004, after looking gaunt at recent company events.
Jobs underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and received a liver transplant in early 2009.
Apple’s fortunes have been uniquely linked to Jobs, who returned to the then flagging company in 1997 after a 12-year absence and introduced innovative and wildly successful products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Obama will also be meeting the heads of Google, Facebook and Twitter for the first time since the the search and social networks were judged to have played a key role in the Egyptian revolt which toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
On Tuesday, Schmidt said Google was “very, very proud” of cyberactivist Wael Ghonim, a young executive at the company who emerged as a leading voice of the Egyptian uprising.
Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, ran a Facebook page that helped spark the revolution.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” Ghonim said the protests would not have happened without online social networks.
“If there was no social networks it would have never been sparked,” he said.
“Because the whole thing before the revolution was the most critical thing. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without Google, without You Tube, this would have never happened.”
On Friday, Obama is due to travel on to the western state of Oregon to tour a site that will become one of the world’s most advanced semi-conductor plants, as he seeks drive home his message that the US economy must innovate as it seeks to compete with rising giants India and China.