Digital Britain: a UK success story. Let’s not blow it!

The Government this week attempted tore-ignite the UK’s wavering economy, as well as give us all an early Christmas present. In its Pre-Budget Report to Parliament (a sort off pre-cursor to the real budget in March), it announced a ‘VAT holiday’ by cutting the tax we pay on the goods and services we buy from 17.5% to 15% for the next year. Whoopee.

What’s the significance of this to Digital Britain then? The significance is this: that even in a recession digital is driving the UK economy. We are still doing more, seeing more, playing more and spending more online. This was reflected in a recentOfcom international comparison study which found that the UK is the most advanced digital nation in the world. Here are some great stats from the report:

  • The UK has the second highest figure for the weekly time people spend online. Us Brits spend 14 hours per week online, an increase of nearly 6.5 hours a weekon 2004, the highest increase amongst the countries surveyed.

  • The UK leads the world for online advertising. Online advertising accounted for £1 in every £5 of advertising (19 per cent), the highest of all the countries surveyed.

  • We really are going mobile! There are now nearlyone million mobile ‘social networkers’ and – to assist this – coverage for faster mobile broadband speeds (jargon name: High Speed Downlink Packet Access!) is the best in the UK.

  • There is one broadband connection for every four people in the UK.

So it’s official: Digital is a UK success story and a world beater! This is timely in that the Government recently announced the development of a Digital Britain Plan – a so-called “comprehensive analysis of the digital economy”. Based upon Ofcom’s research, it should give it all a glowing report. It will obviously highlight a few things we need to iron out (government would not announce a plan if there were not issues to resolve!), such as how to pay for even faster broadband (ie fibre) and what role public service providers, in particular the BBC, play in all of this. And we must not forget the world’s leading business model that underpins Digital Britain: advertising. Of course, there are a few challenges we need to face up to here as well but – first and foremost – let’s agree that self-regulation is the most realistic way to do this (I will continue to bang the drum!). More importantly please can we have some credible political support for self-regulation. It would help reassure that all our work is not in vain. Oh – and one last small point – it may also help to ensure that the UK remains the most digitally advanced place on earth.