Published:Oct 10, 2023

Digital democracy|Digital divide

Global internet divide in 2023

Chances are high that if you live in a lower-income country, you will pay far more for the internet than your peers in higher-income countries, and your internet will also be much slower. In this chart of the week, Surfshark looks at the internet affordability and quality ratio in 120 countries based on the annual Digital Quality of Life Index. The average time that people work to afford the cheapest internet in lower-income countries is up to 4 times higher than that in wealthier countries. Moreover, poor countries have, on average, a 3 times slower internet connection. One-third (39 out of 120) of analyzed countries are classed as lower income and almost half of the global population lives there.

Key insights

  • The divide is especially high when it comes to fixed broadband internet. Lower-income countries work 4.1 times more for 3.3 times slower internet. On average, people living in rich countries enjoy internet speeds of 140 Mbps for a bit less than 3 hours of work per month, while lower-income countries get only 42 Mbps for more than 12 hours of work.
  • The gap is smaller when it comes to mobile internet, but only affordability wise. Lower-income countries work 1.6 times more for 3.1 times slower internet compared to high-income countries. On average, people living in higher income countries enjoy mobile internet speeds of 96 Mbps for 1 hour 41 min of work per month, while lower-income countries get only 32 Mbps for more than 2 hours 37 min of work.
  • Higher income does not necessarily mean that the country has affordable, high-quality internet. Other factors, such as the quality of the e-infrastructure in the geographical region, might have an even more significant impact. For example, South Africa is considered to be a higher income country, but its fixed internet speed (70 Mbps) is twice lower than the average in higher income countries. On the other hand, the Philippines - a lower income country - has three times faster fixed internet (119 Mbps) than the average in the lower income group.

Methodology and sources

Drawing on data from Surfshark’s Digital Quality of Life index 2023, we analyzed internet inequality by averaging values across two DQL indicators: internet speed and time to work to afford it in respect to countries’ economic wellbeing (income level). Both mobile and fixed broadband internet were considered. Analysis includes all countries researched in the DQL 2023, except Venezuela, as there is no data on the country's income level.

For the complete research material behind this study, visit here.

Data was collected from:

Surfshark (2023). Digital quality of life index;The World Bank (2023). Income levels by country.
The team behind this research:About us