Chancellor Alistair Darling’s latest budget report has introduced several new measures designed to benefit the UK’s high-tech industries, including the promised 50p landline duty intended to enhance broadband infrastructure.
Other initiatives annnounced today include a £2.5 billion innovation fund for small enterprises, a £270 million investment in creating 20,000 new university places for those studying technology or engineering and a one-year business rate cut from October.
The previously announced 50p broadband tax, also to be implemented from October, is part of the government’s Next Generation Access (NGA) strategy, which aims to make ‘super-fast’ broadband Internet speeds available to 90% of the British population by 2017.
"The UK has the potential to be the world leader in the digital economy," Chancellor Alistair Darling said during his lunchtime address. "Realising this ambition would create thousands of new businesses and hundreds of thousands of new jobs. It will also open the way for public services to be delivered more effectively and at lower cost."
"Access to high-speed broadband is essential to deliver these goals," he added. "We have taken the decision to ensure the benefits are spread to rural as well as urban areas and are not limited to the better off."
The budget announcements are the latest examples the government is emphasising the technology and digital sectors as key drivers for economic recovery. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the government would be investing £30 million in a new Institute of Web Science, overseen by Internet creator Tim Berners-Lee, to research the next generation of online technologies.