A global research on the quality of a digital wellbeing in 110 countries (90% of the global population). This study indexes the countries by looking at five fundamental pillars that define the digital quality of life.
Complete indicator list, DQL Index components, and rationale:
- DQL index
- Internet affordability
- Internet quality
- Electronic infrastructure
- Electronic security
- Electronic government
Methodology & data sources
The 2021 edition of the annual Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index is a third, improved iteration of Surfshark’s DQL studies of 2019 and 2020. This year, the DQL Index is more complex and includes 14 factors that directly influence the digital quality of life in any given country. Unlike the 2019 study, the DQL Index editions of 2020 and 2021 are (with a few exceptions) comparable this year.
The DQL 2021 index analyzes 110 countries (in contrast to 85 in 2020) around the world in terms of five core pillars: internet affordability, internet quality, e-infrastructure, e-security, and e-government. These pillars consist of 14 (two more than last year) indicators that are interrelated and work together to measure the overall digital quality of life.
This year’s study includes 25 (29%) more countries than DQL 2020, most of which are African countries.
Internet affordability (20%)
Internet affordability determines how much time people have to work to afford the internet connection. The affordability of the internet connection directly impacts its accessibility. A less affordable internet harms the overall digital well-being and vice versa.
Indicator 1: Work time it takes to afford the cheapest mobile internet (seconds) (50% weight within the pillar).
The factor value of mobile internet affordability was determined by dividing the price of the cheapest 1 GB mobile data package by the average hourly wage in a specific country*. Then, the index value was derived by dividing the value of the cheapest mobile data package globally by the factor value. It was then multiplied by 0.5 to weight it in the internet affordability pillar that consists of two indicators.
Indicator 2: Work time it takes to afford the cheapest broadband internet (minutes) (50% weight within the pillar).
The factor value of broadband affordability was determined by dividing the lowest broadband internet package price by the average hourly wage in a specific country. Then, the index value was derived by dividing the value of the cheapest broadband package globally by the factor value. It was then multiplied by 0.5 to weight it in the internet affordability pillar that consists of two indicators.
Internet quality (20%)
Internet quality measures how fast and stable the internet connectivity in a country is and how well it’s improving. The quality of the internet connectivity highly depends on its speed and stability. Slow and unstable connections inhibit daily use and diminish work efficiency, while fast and stable internet allows us to communicate better, enjoy high-quality content, and more. Consequently, it directly impacts the quality of one's digital life.
Indicator 3: Mobile speed (Mbps)
To index the global mobile internet speed, we first took the 12-month average of the mean monthly download speed in any specific country from April 2020 to April 2021. We then divided it by the highest global average download speed value and weighted it by 0.2.
Indicator 4: Broadband speed (Mbps)
The broadband speed index was determined in the same way as the mobile speed.
Indicator 5: Mobile internet stability (indexed value)
The mobile internet connection stability was determined by comparing the download speed changes each month compared to the last. If the sum percentile change in the mobile download speed during the 12 months was equal to zero, countries were considered to have a stable internet connection and were assigned a value of 1. If the change was negative, the percentile modulus difference was deducted from the max value of 1. Then, the stability factor value was weighted by 0.15.
Indicator 6: Broadband internet stability (indexed value)
The broadband internet stability was determined in the same way as the mobile internet stability.
Indicator 7: Mobile internet speed growth (indexed value)
The mobile internet speed growth was determined by comparing download speed of April 2020 and April 2021. If the percentile change in mobile download speed was equal to or more than 100%, countries were assigned a value of 1. Otherwise, the values were derived by dividing percentile change by 100. Then, the growth factor value was weighted by 0.15.
Indicator 8: Broadband internet speed growth (indexed value)
Broadband internet speed growth was determined in the same way as mobile internet speed growth.
Electronic infrastructure (20%)
Electronic infrastructure determines how well developed and inclusive is a country’s existing electronic infrastructure. Highly functional e-infrastructure enables people to use the internet daily for many purposes, such as studying, e-commerce, entertainment, banking, and others. This strongly amounts to having a better digital experience.
Indicator 9: Individuals using the internet (per 100 inhabitants) (50% weight within the pillar)
The internet use factor was derived by dividing the number of individuals using the internet in a specific country by the number of individuals using the internet in the country with the highest value. Then, the factor was weighted by 0.5 as one of the two indicators of the e-infrastructure pillar.
Indicator 10: Network readiness (NRI) (index)
The Network Readiness Index was determined by weighting the NRI value from the Portulans Institute hosted Digital Transformation Dialogue Series by 0.5.
Electronic security (20%)
Electronic security measures how safe and protected people feel in a country. E- security shows a country’s preparedness to counter cybercrimes and its commitment to protecting any individual’s online privacy.
Indicator 11: Cybersecurity (index)
To account for cybersecurity in the examined countries, the National Cyber Security Index (NCSI), developed by e-Governance Academy Foundation, was used for its viability and the extent of data inclusivity. The NCSI index was weighted by 0.5 as one of the two indicators of the e-security pillar.
Indicator 12: Data protection laws (indexed value)
We indexed the data protection laws indicator by assigning a value from 0 to 2 depending on the existence and completeness of legislation regarding personal data protection in a country. The quality of data protection was benchmarked against the EU’s General Data Protection Directive as the best example of personal data protection legislation. The values were assigned in the following order: 0 - no specific laws or data (none); 1 - draft legislation; 2 - legislation. To index the assigned values, they were divided by the highest value of data protection (2) and weighted by 0.5.
Electronic government (20%)
Electronic government determines how advanced and digitized are a country’s government services. Better e-government helps to minimize the bureaucracy, reduce corruption and increase the transparency of the public sector. It also improves the efficiency of public services and helps people save time, influencing the quality of their digital lives.
Indicator 13: Online Service Index (index)
To determine e-government user-friendliness, we used the United Nations’ Online Service Index (OSI) for its inclusivity. The OSI is a composite part of the UN’s E-Government Development Index (EGDI). The OSI is based on the extent of a country’s government’s online presence. To weight up the OSI index, it was multiplied by a factor of 0.5.
Indicator 14: AI readiness (index)
The AI readiness indicates a country’s capacity to avail the potential of becoming more efficient at using artificial intelligence technology. The indicator was created using the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2020 that was developed by Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre. The index was normalized to fit the DQL logic by dividing a country’s AI index score by the highest AI index global score and weighing it by 0.5.
- Portulans Institute. (2020). Network Readiness Index. Networkreadinessindex.org
- e-Governance Academy Foundation. (2021). National Cyber Security Index (NCSI). Ncsi.ega.ee
- UNCTAD. (2020). Data Protection Laws. Unctad.org
- EGOVKB. (2020). United Nations e-Government Survey. Publicadministration.un.org/egovkb/
- Oxford Insights. (2020). Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2020. Oxfordinsights.com
- Speedtest. (2021). Speedtest Global Index. Speedtest.net
- Cable. (2021). Worldwide mobile data pricing. Cable.co.uk
- Cable. (2021). The cost of fixed-line broadband. Cable.co.uk
- Numbeo. (2021). Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax). Numbeo.com
- Global living wage. (2020). Average Monthly Net Salary in Côte d'Ivoire (After Tax). Globallivingwage.org
- U.S. Department of State. (2015). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. 2009-2017.state.gov
- Statistics Times. (2020). GDP Indicators 2020. Statisticstimes.com
- Internet World Stats. (2020). Internet Usage Statistics. Internetworldstats.com
- Worldmeter .(2020). World Population. www.worldometers.info
- UNSD. (2021). Regions. Unstats.un.org
*We have found an error in Broadband internet stability data for Slovenia. After adjustments Slovenia ranks:
DQL index rank - 34th
Europe rank - 23rd
DQL rank dropped down - 11
Internet quality index – 39th/0.56
Broadband internet stability - 76th/0.89
Worst criteria rankings:
Broadband internet stability 76th
in DQL global ranking
Best and oposite in pillar ranking
Best criteria rankings
Worst criteria rankings
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