Digital Quality of Life Index

Surfshark introduces the 2021 edition of its annual Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index. This year the study indexes 110 countries around the world and covers 90% of the global population. The third edition of the research ranks countries in terms of digital wellbeing based on five pillars: internet quality, internet affordability, e-infrastructure, e-government, and e-security.

The refreshed version of the DQL Index highlights the changes in the digital landscape that have taken place since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The research team at Surfshark managed to collect data for 25 additional countries if compared to last year’s index, vastly expanding the index’s reach to the African region.

“Digital opportunities have proved to be more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis, stressing the importance for every country to ensure fully remote operational capacities for their economies,” – explains Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark. “That is why, for the third year in a row, we continue the Digital Quality of Life research, which provides a robust global outlook into how countries excel digitally. The index sets the basis for meaningful discussions about how digital advancement impacts a country’s prosperity and where improvements can be made.”

With Denmark taking the top position in the index for the second year in a row, the new overall top ten has changed considerably. A new entrant to the index, South Korea, has taken a second spot, right above Finland and Israel. At the same time, the United States has jumped to the 5th position (22nd last year), with significant improvements in internet quality and e-infrastructure.

The highlight of this year’s index is a revamped, embeddable tool that allows comparing the rankings of countries by pillars and filtering them by region. Also, in the DQL 2021 edition, each of the 110 countries has a dedicated country profile that provides tailored findings and compares its position to the last year’s index.

In the 2021 DQL Index, six European countries dominate the top ten. Regionally, apart from the leading in the Americas and South Korea in Asia, people in South Africa and Australia enjoy the highest quality of their digital lives in the respective continents.

Regionally, the U.S. stands out as a country with the highest digital quality of life in the Americas, while South Korea takes the leading position in Asia. Among countries in Africa, people in South Africa enjoy the highest quality of their digital lives whereas Australia leads in Oceania, outperforming New Zealand in various digital areas.

Other significant findings of the report include:

  • Broadband is globally less affordable this year. Comparing countries included in both DQL20 and DQL21, people have to work 11% more (25 min more) to afford broadband internet in 2021. However, people have to work 29% less (28 min less) to afford mobile internet this year.
  • The world’s worst internet is the least affordable. People in some countries, such as Nigeria, Côte D’Ivoire, and Mali require approximately a week’s worth of work to afford the internet.
  • Investing in electronic infrastructure and the electronic government contributes to people’s digital wellbeing the most.

The Digital Quality of Life Index is based on five pillars:

  • Internet quality: measures stability, speed, and YoY growth of online connections
  • Internet affordability: measures working hours required to pay for broadband and mobile internet
  • E-infrastructure: measures percentage of internet users per country and network readiness
  • E-security: measures ability to tackle cybercrime and status of data protection laws
  • E-government: measures roll out of online government services and AI readiness.

The 2021 DQL research examined a total population of more than 6.9 billion people in terms of five core pillars and 14 underpinning indicators that provide a comprehensive measure. The study is based on open-source information provided by the United Nations, the World Bank, Freedom House, the International Communications Union, and other sources.