Online connectivity is heralded as the great leveler, but the online experience is not equal for different people in different societies.

Privacy company Surfshark, in its Digital Quality of Life (DQL) study, highlights gaps between people’s online experiences in various societies.

The final DQL index compares countries by various digital factors such as the internet speed, country’s cybersecurity, the availability of e-government services and more.

Australia has the highest DQL index score in 2019, followed by France and Singapore.

South Africa comes in at number 40, with a DQL score of just 0.5738 – well below the global median.

“Today, our lives are profoundly affected by our digital well-being as over half of the entire population is using the internet,” says Goddy Ray, DQL research lead at Surfshark.

“We wanted to understand what matters most for people in the digital sphere and compare digital experiences around the world.

“This is the first attempt to estimate the quality of our digital lives, which, we expect, will provide grounds for further discussions within the indexed countries.”

One of the key global findings of the DQL study is that well-developed internet infrastructure does not necessarily guarantee high quality of digital life for the country’s citizens.

Instead, a composition of less tangible factors such as country’s cybersecurity or presence of personal data protection laws is essential to determine digital well-being.

The research concluded that none of the indexed countries crossed the threshold of 0.8000 (of 1.000), highlighting that there is room for improvement in various digital areas globally. The median value of DQL index is 0.6110.

South Africans average mobile internet speeds of 27,6Mbps and broadband speeds of just 18,7Mbps.

Citizens must work 71 minutes to be able to afford the cheapest broadband internet, and 432 seconds to get the cheapest mobile internet.

South Africa scores 0.6520 on the global cybersecurity index and 0.8333 for e-government availability.

The research team analysed open source data collected from the databases of the United Nations, the World Bank, Freedom House, the International Communications Union and other sources. The countries were ranked combining factors such as internet connectivity speed, affordability, cybersecurity, the availability of data protection laws, e-government services, and entertainment content availability.

The final 2019 Digital Quality of Life report, as well as an interactive country comparison tool, can be found here: