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South Africa might have the most affordable mobile internet in Africa, but in terms of overall digital wellbeing it ranks 66th in the world. This is according to a new Digital Quality of Life Index (DQL) report which measured 117 countries, or 92% of the global population.
Out of the five fundamental digital life pillars, South Africa’s worst score is for e-infrastructure (ranking 88th globally), and the best is for internet affordability (39th). South Africa’s e-government services come 60th, while internet quality and e-security rank 62nd and 65th, respectively. In the face of waging inflation, fixed broadband internet has become less affordable worldwide for the second year in a row, prying the global digital divide even further.
The DQL study is conducted by the cybersecurity company Surfshark. It evaluates countries based on five fundamental digital wellbeing pillars: internet quality, e-government, e-infrastructure, internet affordability, and e-security.
This year, South Africa comes at the lower end of the index, ranking 66th and only making it into the top 70 in the final index. Country ranks 1st in Africa. The country has improved by two positions since last year’s edition, rising from 68th to 66th. Out of all index pillars, South Africa’s weakest spot is e-infrastructure, which needs to improve by 70% to match the best-ranking country’s result (Denmark’s).
Internet quality in SA is mediocre
South Africa’s internet quality, considering internet speed, stability, and growth, ranks 62nd in the world and is 8% worse than the global average. Regarding internet speed alone, South Africa’s mobile internet ranks higher than fixed broadband in the global ranking, operating at 52.2 Mbps/s (48th globally). Meanwhile, the fixed broadband internet comes 70th (53.9 Mbps/s).
Compared to Kenya, South Africa’s mobile internet is 2 times faster, while broadband is 3 times faster. Since last year, mobile internet speed in South Africa has improved by 16.5% (7.4 Mbps), and fixed broadband speed has grown by 22.7% (10 Mbps). In comparison, Singapore’s residents enjoyed mobile speeds up to 104 Mbps/s and fixed to as much as 261 Mbps/s – that’s the fastest internet in the world this year.
Affordable compared to global standards
South Africa’s internet affordability ranks 39th in the world. Residents can buy 1GB of mobile internet in South Africa for as cheap as 35 seconds of work per month, 13 times less than in Kenya.
However, compared to Israel, which has the most affordable mobile internet on the planet (5s per 1GB), South Africans work 7 times more. Its affordability improved since the previous year, making people work 24 seconds less to afford the same mobile internet service.
Fixed broadband costs South Africans around 5 hours 6 minutes of their precious working time each month. To afford it, South Africans have to work 16 times more than Israeli citizens, for whom the most affordable package costs only 19 min of work monthly. Since last year, broadband internet has become less affordable in South Africa, making people work 3 hours 28 minutes more to afford fixed broadband internet service.
The global digital divide is now deeper than ever
Globally, broadband is getting less affordable each year. Looking at countries included in last year’s index, people have to work six minutes more to afford broadband internet in 2022. In some countries, such as Ivory Coast and Uganda, people work an average of 2 weeks to earn the cheapest fixed broadband internet package.
The same trend was observed last year. With the current inflation, the pressure on low-income households that need the internet has become even heavier. Surfshark’s study also found that countries with the poorest internet connection have to work for it the longest.
“While countries with a strong digital quality of life tend to be those of advanced economies, our global study found that money doesn’t always buy digital happiness,” explains Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, head of PR at Surfshark.
“That is why, for the fourth year in a row, we continue analysing the Digital Quality of Life to see how different nations keep up with providing the basic digital necessities for their citizens. Most importantly, our research seeks to show the full picture of the global digital divide that millions of people are suffering from.”
Overall, 7 out of 10 highest-scoring countries are in Europe, which has been the case for the past three years. Israel ranks 1st in DQL 2022 pushing Denmark to the second place after its two-year lead. Germany ranks 3rd, and France and Sweden round up the top five of the 117 evaluated nations. Congo DR, Yemen, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Cameroon are the bottom five countries.
Regionally, the US stands out in the Americas as a country with the highest digital quality of life , while Israel takes the leading position in Asia. Among African countries, people in South Africa enjoy the highest digital life quality. In Oceania, New Zealand takes the lead outperforming Australia in various digital areas this year.