Will the budget offer any additional digital promise?

The Chancellor is set to get the red briefcase back out again next week and deliver his budgetary speech. For digital marketers, hopes must lie in further funding, or at least meaningful pledges, to the commitments laid out in the Digital Britain report.

Joe Fernandez
Joe Fernandez

In the same speech last year, the Government unveiled plans to deliver a Universal Service in broadband at 2 megabits per second by 2012.

At the time business secretary Lord Mandelson said: “We need to make sure that transformational technologies like broadband are genuinely available to virtually everyone. And we need government action to help drive that change and ensure UK firms have the capacity to compete for the economic opportunities it brings.”

These pledges have been welcomed by the industry. They say that an advanced broadband infrastructure is essential for the growth of the online marketing industry.

Yet, progress in paving the way for nationwide take-up has been slow and broadband penetration in the UK is only 62%.

According to industry experts Point Expert, that is only a 0.6% increase since the last budget was announced, and there is “some way to go if the UK is to reach high levels of take-up.”

This strikes me as too little, too slow and industry experts tell me I’m not wrong. For online to be effective, consumers need fast access to their internet wants or their attention span is limited and the digital investment is worthless. Having 40% of consumers still using dial-up will only hinder this process.

It is hoped that the Government will seek to use the budget to talk more about the Digital Britain bill, which was confirmed as part of parliamentary business for this term in November’s Queen’s Speech.

Indeed, with this budget seeming to be Labour’s major electioneering trump card, it would be in its best interests to be seen to encouraging more adoption of the terms laid out in the Digital Britain report, which was published last June. Especially with the Tories publicly declaring that they too will invest in broadband for all.

The Government is in some ways is making progress. Penetration rates may be low, but earlier this month we saw the Government launch its national plan for digital participation intending to get 60% of those people not yet online, connected by March 2014.

Meanwhile firms like BT and Virgin Media are testing speeds of up to 50 megabits per second, and advertisers are more than keen to be involved with these initiatives.

It’s unlikely that the government will go any higher than two megabits per second in its budget. But the industry is eager for any news on what, if anything, the Chancellor can add to current pledges to help make Digital Britain, and thus an enhanced digital marketing industry, a lucrative and enviable reality that can reshape the way consumers think and behave. Bring on that suitcase!

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here

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