South Africa has the best digital quality of life in Africa but ranks just 72nd in the world. This is according to Surfshark’s fifth annual Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index, where the country dropped by six places from last year.

Out of the Index’s five pillars, South Africa’s best performance was in Internet affordability, where it claimed 52nd place, while facing challenges in e-infrastructure, ranking 94th. The nation ranks 61st in e-government, 63rd in Internet quality, and 72nd in e-security.

In the overall Index, South Africa surpasses Kenya (76th) and Nigeria (88th). Overall, African countries lag behind in the Index, but South Africa takes first place in the region.

“In many nations, ‘digital quality of life’ has merged into the broader concept of overall ‘quality of life’,” says Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, Surfshark’s spokeswoman. “There’s no other way to look at it now that so many daily activities, including work, education, and leisure, are done online.

“That’s why it’s crucial to pinpoint the areas in which a nation’s digital quality of life thrives and where attention is needed, which is the precise purpose of the DQL Index.”


South Africa’s Internet quality is just around the global average

Fixed internet averages 70Mbps in South Africa. To put that into perspective, the world’s fastest fixed internet – Singapore’s – is 300Mbps. Meanwhile, the slowest fixed internet in the world – Yemen’s – is 11Mbps.

Mobile internet averages 68 Mbps. The fastest mobile internet – the UAE’s – is 310Mbps, while the world’s slowest mobile Internet – Venezuela’s – is 10Mbps.

Since last year, mobile Internet speed in South Africa has improved by 30%, while fixed broadband speed has grown by 30%. Compared to Kenya, South Africa’s mobile Internet is 79% faster, while fixed broadband is 228% faster.


The Internet is affordable in South Africa compared to other countries

South Africans have to work 1 hour 43 minutes a month to afford fixed broadband internet. While this is less than average, it is 6-times more than in Romania, which has the world’s most affordable fixed internet (Romanians have to work 18 minutes a month to afford it).

South Africans have to work 1 hour 26 minutes 1 second a month to afford mobile internet. This is 5-times more than in Luxembourg, which has the world’s most affordable mobile internet (Luxembourgers have to work 16 minutes a month to afford it).

Globally, fixed Internet is 11% more affordable than last year — on average, people have to work 42 minutes less a month to afford it; and mobile internet is 26% more affordable than last year — people have to work 41 minutes less to afford it.


South Africa is 72nd in the world in e-security — 7 places lower than last year

The e-security pillar measures how well a country is prepared to counter cybercrime, as well as how advanced a country’s data protection laws are.

South Africa lags behind Kenya, which ranks 65th, but outperforms Nigeria (73rd) in the e-security pillar.

In the global context, South Africa is unprepared to fight against cybercrime, and the country doesn’t have very advanced data protection laws.


South Africa is 94th in e-infrastructure and 61st in e-government

Advanced e-infrastructure makes it easy for people to use the internet for various daily activities, such as working, studying, shopping, etc. This pillar evaluates how high internet penetration is in a given country, as well as its network readiness (readiness to take advantage of Information and Communication Technologies).

South Africa’s internet penetration is low (58% — 97th in the world), and the country ranks 67th in network readiness.

The e-government pillar shows how advanced a government’s digital services are and the level of artificial intelligence (AI) readiness a country demonstrates.

South Africa’s e-government is similar to the global average, and it is ranked as the best in Africa.