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US ranks 22 of 85 for the digital quality of life [+ COVID-19 impact on internet stability]

Global study shows the US is lagging behind other economically affluent countries in terms of e-security, internet affordability, e-infrastructure development

This year’s edition of the Digital Quality of Life (DQL) research, conducted by the privacy protection company Surfshark, ranks the US 22nd among 85 countries. The US excels globally in terms of e-government development (3rd) and internet quality (18th), while showing mediocre results on internet affordability (27th), e-infrastructure development (30th), and e-security (32nd). The DQL investigation, covering 81% of the global population, ranks countries based on a set of five fundamental pillars, defining the overall quality digital wellbeing around the world. 

The analysis showed that despite ranking at the higher end of the final DQL index, the US has potential to advance globally by focusing on improving specific areas. America's e-infrastructure is similar to countries with average DQL results and lower GDP per capita, such as Uruguay or Slovakia. Also, it ranks just behind Romania and Greece in terms of e-security, countries that take 39th and 37th positions in the final index.

"Any country’s digital advancement and people’s online experiences have tangible relation to its economic potential and population’s overall wellbeing. To demonstrate this coherence, we are continuing our annual Digital Quality of Life research project that investigates multiple factors influencing people’s online experiences,” explains Dom Dimas, Head of DQL research at Surfshark. "The index aims to overlook the status quo of any country's digital preparedness and establish a common ground for further conversation."

7 of 10 countries with the highest Digital Quality of Life scores are in Europe, and Denmark takes the podium. The country registered a score of 0.7919 on a scale of zero to one. Denmark was followed by Sweden and Canada. None of the countries examined crossed the threshold of 0.8, reflecting room for improvement in all digital areas. 

Among other findings in the report:

  • E-security, e-infrastructure, and e-government have a more significant correlation with the digital quality of life than GDP per capita. 

  • The affordability of the internet plays a significant role in ensuring accessibility but has a notably lower correlation with the DQL than the other pillars. 

  • High inequality in affordability: people in 75% of the researched countries have to work more than the global average to afford the internet. 

  • COVID-19 outbreak had a significant impact on internet stability. 49 of 85 countries experienced drops in mobile and 44 in broadband speed due to WFH setting.

The DQL research examined a total population of more than 6.3 billion people in terms of 12 indicators that are interrelated and work together to provide a measure of the overall digital quality of life. The study is based on open-source information provided by the United Nations, the World Bank, Freedom House, the International Communications Union, and other sources. 

The final 2020 Digital Quality of Life report and an interactive country comparison tool with country-level reports, can be found here: https://surfshark.com/dql2020.

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