The number of cases and the scope of cybercrime are constantly on the rise. Consequently, the importance of strong electronic security grows, affecting every country’s residents’ digital experience. A country’s commitment to and the effectiveness of its national cybersecurity and data protection are critical to its citizens’ wellbeing and economic development.

Therefore, in the scope of the 2020 Digital Quality of Life (DQL) study, a country’s electronic security score was defined by the following: 

  1. Index of its national levels of cybersecurity, and 
  2. Status of its citizens’ personal data protection laws.

The study results showed a strong relationship between the DQL and e-security. However, e-security’s low correlation with a country’s GDP per capita particularly stood out, indicating that other factors are at play when considering people’s DQL of different nations.

Key findings:

  • Governments in Europe, South-eastern Asia, and North America are prepared to counter cyber threats the most.
  • South-eastern Asian countries and Australia fall short on personal data protection.
  • E-security has the strongest correlation (0.89) with the DQL index. Moreover, out of all the pillars, a country’s e-security is the least correlated (0.58) with its GDP per capita. It proves that factors (e.g., government’s efficiency, legislation on data protection, etc.) other than GDP play a more important role in people’s digital lives.
  • The European Union leads in e-security: the top 10 countries with the highest e-security levels are the EU member states. 
  • 15 out of 85 countries don’t have any data protection laws. Most of them are in Asia, South America and Africa.

Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America – the bastions of cybersecurity

To account for cybersecurity in each of the researched countries, the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), developed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), was used for its viability and the extent of data inclusivity.

ITU assessed the cybersecurity dimension according to the following pillars – (i) Legal Measures, (ii) Technical Measures, (iii) Organizational Measures, (iv) Capacity Building, and (v) Cooperation – and then calculated as an overall score.

Out of 85 total nations examined, the top 10 most cyber-secure countries according to ITU were:

  1. The UK (Europe)
  2. The US (North America)
  3. France (Europe)
  4. Lithuania (Europe)
  5. Estonia (Europe)
  6. Singapore (Southeast Asia)
  7. Spain (Europe)
  8. Malaysia (Southeast Asia)
  9. Canada (North America)
  10. Norway (Europe)

Southeast Asia and Australia lack personal data protection

Standing strong in the upper tier cybersecurity (GCI) percentile, Singapore (0.9), Malaysia (0.89), and Australia (0.89) showed to be severely lacking in the data protection department.

Seeing how important the integrity of personal resident information is, the countries’ scores regarding personal data protection laws were below average compared to the global standard and have negatively impacted their overall e-security ratings:

Global Avg.
Cybersecurity index
Data protection
Final e-security score

GDPR has put the EU at the forefront of global e-security

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has put the entire region at the forefront of global e-security. According to the DQL, the top 10 most secure countries are all in the EU:

This means that the EU states globally lead in implementing effective cybersecurity policies and ensuring personal data protection.

* The data protection legislation index was based on a value scale from 0 to 5, 0 – meaning no specific laws and 5 – meaning personal data is protected by the GDPR, then divided by 5 and weighted by 0.5. You can read more about each DQL pillar’s methodology here.

Some countries still don’t have data protection laws

15 countries (10 Asian, 3 South American and 2 African) out of 85 examined did not have any data protection laws for their citizens. 

No data protection laws mean that processing, privacy, and use of Personal Data are unregulated, leaving third-party companies or individuals to do with collected data as they please. This seriously impacts a country’s overall e-security because it leaves its citizens’ wellbeing open to potential compromise.

Stronger e-security indicates better DQL

Interestingly, the e-security index (cybersecurity and data protection scores) correlated the most (0.89) with the overall DQL out of the rest of the examined factors like internet quality and affordability, e-government, e-infrastructure of different countries.

At the same time, e-security showed the smallest correlation (0.58) with a country’s GDP. This suggests that other factors besides GDP per capita, like governing efficiency, legislation, technical and organizational measures, are more important for the overall e-security.

About Digital Quality of Life

The Digital Quality of Life Index 2020 assessed 85 countries worldwide under five key metrics, or DQL pillars: Internet affordability and quality, E-infrastructure, E-security, and E-government. 

It is a global study based on information from the United Nations, World Bank, Freedom House, International Communications Union, and other public data sources.