Over half of the entire population is using the internet, and more social interactions happen in the digital sphere, says Goddy Ray, digital quality of life QL research lead at Surfshark.
“We wanted to understand what matters most for people in the digital sphere and compare digital experiences around the world," says Ray as Surfshark releases the findings of its first Digital Quality of Life (DQL) survey.
Surfshark says the study compared and analysed people’s online experiences in 65 countries, covering a population of approximately 5.5 billion in every major region of the world.
New Zealand ranks number 20, while Australia, France and Singapore took the top three ranks respectively.
Australia's high score (0.7992 index value) was mainly determined by a very high affordability of mobile internet, comparatively high mobile internet speeds, and a solid level of cybersecurity in the country.
However, the score could have been higher if not for Australia’s underdeveloped broadband infrastructure, which ranked the country in the lower end of corresponding indicators of broadband speed and affordability.
Algeria has the lowest DQL, with an index rating 0.1865. The country’s performance regarding all of the DQL criteria was low.
The final ranking was mainly affected by low mobile and broadband internet speeds, low affordabilityof mobile and broadband internet, poor e-government development, and the second lowest score in cybersecurity.
The research team analysed open-source data collected from the databases of the United Nations, the World Bank, Freedom House, the International Communications Union and other sources.
The final factors that make up the foundation of the digital quality of life were selected from 21 indicators.
These were narrowed to affordability of connectivity; the speed of connectivity; security of citizens’ personal information; the digital advancement of specific country in terms of its cybersecurity; the development of a country in terms of availability of e-services offered by its government; and the variety of content to access.
The factors defining the digital quality of life and their weights in the overall index were determined by a panel of experts from various backgrounds as well as quantitative surveys in 10 countries to make up for any potential bias.
The research finds a strong link between between a country’s wealth (in terms of GDP) and its citizens’ digital quality of life.
Affluent economies tended to outperform other countries in the areas of cybersecurity, affordability, and internet speed, reports Surfshark.
These areas generally indicate comparatively prudent legislative and executive systems, as well as more proficiently developed internet infrastructure and its competitiveness compared to the countries ranked in the lower end of the DQL index.
The study likewise suggests that every additional $10,000 in any given country's GDP per capita can consequently improve the digital well-being of its citizens and add up an additional 0.0300 to its DQL score.
This economic improvement would not necessarily have a short-term impact on any one specific factor, but rather a long-term spillover effect on most of the components of the index, it states.
The research confirms that mobile internet is of crucial importance in today’s world as it is much easier to install and scale, requires less investment, and can cover a larger population than broadband.
These factors are of utmost importance for countries with complicated landscapes, substantial land areas, or less affluent economies, it states.
Cheaper and easily scalable mobile technology allows for better affordability than broadband, which is generally much less affordable throughout the world.
With heightened awareness of data privacy fueled by millions of data breaches worldwide, the report says Europe’s GDPR served as a de facto benchmark for governments and global companies to strengthen their legal pillars.
Surfshark says the DQL index shows that most of the countries are data protection-conscious, with 62 out of 65 having laws or drafts of laws in place. “However, in some cases, this apparent commitment is illusory.”
And this, according to the research, is how a perfect digital quality of life country looks like:
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