Spring Budget overlooks the transformative potential of digital inclusion

Good Things' Group CEO, Helen Milner OBE, writes about how the Spring Budget has missed an opportunity by not investing in digital inclusion, impacting both people and the economy.

Off the back of the spring budget, it’s clear that the economy is grappling with stagnation as we enter a second quarter of negative growth. Despite Sunak pledging to grow the economy, he now faces significant challenges, with GDP teetering around zero and real GDP showing a consecutive quarter on quarter decline. 

At this pivotal moment, the omission of digital inclusion in the Government’s budget is concerning for the Treasury, wider Government and the nation. A lack of investment in basic digital skills and support is a glaring oversight as households experience a huge downturn in their finances.

The economic landscape

Jeremy Hunt announced that households have had £3,400 in economic support and as a result, real household income is on course to rise. However, real disposable income per household is below pre-pandemic levels and households have experienced a ‘lost decade’ in terms of pay growth. 

The Government has presented revised forecasts from the OBR, but the issue is not that it has declined and is now projected to be slightly above; it is that household income has been stagnant for so long. (Res Foundation). Against a backdrop of creaking public services and local Government in crisis, any help the economy can get right now should be welcomed rather than ignored.

The missing piece: digital inclusion

The Government’s sidelining of digital inclusion is a missed opportunity. An investment of less than £1.4 billion in basic digital skills could deliver up to £13.7 billion in economic growth to deliver long-term benefit to households (CEBR, Good Things). Our previous calls for a comprehensive Digital Inclusion Action Plan and substantial investment in digital skills and social infrastructure have never been more relevant. With millions lacking foundational digital skills and access to the internet, the divide will likely deepen further, locking people out of opportunities.

‘Digital by default’ agenda remains unfinished

The government has promised to implement a ‘Public Sector productivity plan’ that will utilise AI to improve public services. However, completing the ‘Digital by Default’ agenda could lead to significant financial and efficiency gains. A study conducted by CEBR on behalf of Good Things Foundation has found that by ensuring a digitally included UK by the end of 2032, the government could save £1.4 billion in efficiency costs.

A call for integrated solutions

The Spring Budget 2024 should have recognised digital inclusion as a cornerstone of economic recovery and growth. As we’ve argued, for every £1 invested in digital inclusion, the return is a staggering £9.48 to the economy. The benefits of such investment extend beyond economic figures, offering a lifeline to those at the brink of digital exclusion.

People like Julie, who was embarrassed and isolated because she had no idea how to use the internet and couldn’t afford to get online. After joining National Digital Inclusion Hub Learn for Life – part of the National Digital Inclusion Network – she received a free device with data and skills support that boosted her employment skills. Julie is now connected to her local community and is more confident than ever, living life on her own terms.

Digital For All 

Julie’s story is just one of many showcased in our latest campaign Digital For All – running across the length of March – raising awareness of digital exclusion, promoting the free digital inclusion services available across the UK and showcasing the transformational impact digital has on people’s lives. 

The Spring Statement presented a critical juncture. The Government ought to have heeded our call to integrate digital inclusion into its fiscal policies, instead it overlooked a crucial area of need. This is a moment where strategic, joined-up leadership could have made a real difference in creating a more inclusive and digitally empowered future.

The time to act is now. As we navigate through economic headwinds, the need for digital inclusion has never been more critical. 

What do you think? Do you believe that our Government will take this opportunity to make a positive impact? Let us know your thoughts on #DigitalForAll and #Springbudget, and tag @GoodThingsFdn. 

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Spread the Word: Share this article with #DigitalForAll  and tag @GoodThingsFdn on your social media platforms. Let’s get the conversation going and keep it loud.
  2. Contact Your Local MP: Use your voice to advocate for digital inclusion. Reach out to your local and national representatives and urge them to prioritise digital inclusion. We will shortly be releasing a template letter on the website.
  3. Support Digital Inclusion Initiatives: Whether it’s through volunteering, donating devices, or contributing to organisations working on the ground, your support makes a difference. Visit our website to find out more about the National Digital Inclusion Network.


Helen Milner

Helen Milner OBE

Group Chief Executive

Helen Milner OBE is the Group Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation. Founded as a staff-led mutual charity in the UK in 2011, Helen led the establishment of a subsidiary charity, opening an office in Sydney in August 2017, and running the Be Connected Network for the Australian Government.