The Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index reveals insights into factors that impact a country’s digital wellbeing and areas that should be prioritized for future improvement.
The 2023 DQL Index (fifth edition) offers a unique perspective into a country's digital quality of life according to five pillars: internet affordability, internet quality, electronic infrastructure, electronic security, and electronic government.
The DQL Index is an independent study conducted by Surfshark, a cybersecurity company offering a wide range of privacy solutions. Surfshark cybersecurity tools are provided by the Netherlands-registered company Surfshark B.V. The company was founded in Lithuania in 2018. If you have any questions regarding the DQL Index, contact us at [email protected]. You can also visit our media center here: https://surfshark.com/press.
Complete indicator list, DQL Index components, and rationale
The 2023 edition of the annual Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index is the fifth iteration of DQL studies conducted in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. This year, the DQL Index includes 14 factors directly influencing the digital quality of life in any given country.
Since the results for 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 are comparable, we were able to accurately track each country's digital progress over the last three years.
The DQL Index 2023 analyzes 121 countries (up from 117 in 2022) according to internet affordability, internet quality, e-infrastructure, e-security, and e-government. These pillars have 14 indicators that help measure the overall digital quality of life.
This year’s study includes 4 more countries than the DQL Index 2022. The new countries are Venezuela, Kuwait, Benin, and Burkina Faso.Full research material
Internet affordability (20%)
Internet affordability determines how much time people have to work to afford a stable internet connection. The internet’s affordability directly impacts its accessibility. A more affordable internet has a positive effect on digital wellbeing, while low affordability has a negative effect.
Indicator 1: Work time it takes to afford the cheapest mobile internet (seconds) (50% weight of the pillar)
We determined the factor value of mobile internet affordability by dividing the price of the cheapest mobile data package by the average hourly wage in a specific country. Then, we derived the index value by dividing the value of the most affordable mobile data package globally by the country’s mobile internet affordability value. It was then multiplied by 0.5 to weigh it in the internet affordability pillar, which consists of two indicators.
In the DQL'23 edition, the source for mobile internet price data was changed from Cable.co to ITU (United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies) to compare mobile vs. fixed internet pricing more accurately. Cable.co pricing includes not only 1GB of mobile data but also texts and voice calls, while ITU gives data-only broadband (minimum speed of a broadband connection is 256 kbit/s, relying on 3G technologies or above) mobile package pricing.
Indicator 2: Work time it takes to afford the cheapest fixed internet (minutes) (50% weight of the pillar)
We determined the factor value of broadband affordability by dividing the lowest broadband internet package price by the average hourly wage in a specific country. Then, we derived the index value by dividing the value of the most affordable broadband package globally by the factor value. It was then multiplied by 0.5 to weigh it in the internet affordability pillar, which consists of two indicators.
Internet quality (20%)
Internet quality measures how fast and stable internet connectivity in a country is and if it’s improving. The quality of internet connectivity greatly depends on its speed and stability. Slow and unstable connections inhibit daily use and diminish work efficiency, while fast and stable connections allow for better communication, high-quality content, and more.
Indicator 3: Mobile speed (Mbps)
To index global mobile internet speed, we first took the 12-month average of the mean monthly download speed in any specific country from April 2022 to April 2023. We then divided it by the highest global yearly average download speed value and weighed it by 0.2.
Indicator 4: Broadband speed (Mbps)
We measured the broadband speed index in the same way as the mobile speed index.
In the DQL'21 edition, the source for broadband speed data was changed from Cable.co to Speedtest.net as mobile internet speed is collected from Speedtest.net.
Indicator 5: Mobile internet stability (indexed value)
We determined mobile internet connection stability by comparing monthly download speed changes. We compared the percentage change in the mobile download speed of each month to that of the previous month. If the sum change during the 12 months was positive or equal to zero, we considered countries to have a stable internet connection and assigned them a value of 1. If the change was negative, we deduced the percentage modulus difference from the max value of 1. Then, we weighed the stability factor value by 0.15.
Indicator 6: Broadband internet stability (indexed value)
We measured the broadband internet stability index in the same way as mobile internet stability.
Indicator 7: Mobile internet speed growth (indexed value)
We determined the mobile internet speed growth by calculating the slope of mobile internet speed from April 2022 to April 2023. Then, we derived the index value by dividing the country’s slope value (Mbps/month) by the highest global slope value. If the slope value of mobile download speed was negative, countries were assigned a value of 0. Then, the growth factor value was weighed by 0.15.
Indicator 8: Broadband internet speed growth (indexed value)
We determined broadband internet speed growth in the same way as mobile internet speed growth.
Electronic infrastructure (20%)
Electronic infrastructure determines how well-developed and inclusive a country’s existing electronic infrastructure is. Highly functional e-infrastructure enables people to use the internet daily for many purposes, such as studying, e-commerce, entertainment, banking, etc.
Indicator 9: Individuals using the internet (per 100 inhabitants) (50% weight of the pillar)
We derived the internet use factor 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 weighed by 0.5 as one of the two indicators of the e-infrastructure pillar.
In the DQL'21 edition, the source for individuals using the internet data was changed from UN to Internet World Stats to have the latest data.
Indicator 10: Network readiness
The Network Readiness Index (NRI) was determined by weighing the NRI value from the Portulans Institute (which hosted the Digital Transformation Dialogue Series) by 0.5. The NRI aims to evaluate how ready a country is to take advantage of the opportunities provided by information and communications technologies.
In the DQL'21 edition, the source for the network readiness index data was changed from the World Economic Forum to Portulans Institute to have the latest data.
Electronic security (20%)
Electronic security measures how safe people are online. E-security shows a country’s readiness to counter cybercrimes and its commitment to protecting online privacy.
Indicator 11: Cybersecurity (index)
To account for cybersecurity in the examined countries, the National Cyber Security Index (NCSI), developed by the e-Governance Academy Foundation, was used for its viability and the extent of data inclusivity. The NCSI index was weighed by 0.5 as one of the two indicators of the e-security pillar.
In the DQL'21 edition, the source for cybersecurity index data was changed from ITU to NCSI to have the latest data.
Indicator 12: Data protection laws (indexed value)
We indexed the data protection laws indicator by assigning a value from 0 to 5 depending on the existence and completeness of legislation regarding personal data protection in a country. Data protection quality was benchmarked against the EU’s General Data Protection Directive as the best personal data protection legislation example.
The values were assigned in the following order: 0 — no specific laws or data (none); 1 — some data protection law(s); 2 — independent authority and law(s), 3 — partially adequate laws, 4 — adequate laws, 5 — GDPR-level data protection. To index the assigned values, we divided them by the highest value of data protection (5) and weighed them by 0.5.
In the DQL'21 edition, the source for data protection level was changed from Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) to UNCTAD and back to CNIL in 2022 to have the latest data.
Electronic government (20%)
Electronic government determines how advanced and digitized a country’s government services are. Better e-government helps minimize bureaucracy, reduce corruption, and increase transparency within 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 how user-friendly e-governments are, 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 weigh up the OSI index, it was multiplied by a factor of 0.5.
Indicator 14: AI readiness (index)
AI readiness indicates a country’s capacity to harness the potential and efficiency of artificial intelligence. The indicator was created using the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2020, which 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. (2022). Network Readiness Index
- e-Governance Academy Foundation. (2023). National Cyber Security Index (NCSI)
- Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés. (2022). Data Protection Laws
- EGOVKB (2022). United Nations e-Government Survey
- Oxford Insights. (2022). Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2021
- Speedtest. (2023). Speedtest Global Index
- ITU (2023). Worldwide mobile data-only plan pricing
- Cable.co (2023). The cost of fixed-line broadband
- Numbeo (2023). Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax)
- International labor organization (2022). Mean weekly hours actually worked per employed person
- The World Bank (2022). GDP per capita 2022
- Internet World Stats (2022). Internet Usage Statistics
- United Nations (2022). World Population
- UNSD (2023). Regions
- The World Bank (2023). Income levels by country