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SA has best digital quality of life in Africa, but only comes in at 77 globally, report finds

In many nations, ‘digital quality of life’ has merged into the broader concept of overall quality of life, says Surfshark spokesperson Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske. Picture: Reuters

In many nations, ‘digital quality of life’ has merged into the broader concept of overall quality of life, says Surfshark spokesperson Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske. Picture: Reuters

Published Sep 20, 2023


South Africa has the best digital quality of life in Africa, while ranking 72nd globally in Surfshark’s 5th annual Digital Quality of Life Index (DQL.)

The DQL Index 2023 examined 121 nations (92% of the global population) based on five core pillars that consist of 14 indicators. The study is based on the UN’s open-source information, the World Bank, and other sources.

South Africa dropped by six places from last year.

The index by Surfshark, a cybersecurity company focused on developing humanised privacy and security solutions, found that out of the index’s five pillars, South Africa performed best in internet affordability, claiming 52nd place, while facing challenges in e-infrastructure, ranking 94th. The nation ranked 61st in e-government, 63rd in internet quality, and 72nd in e-security.

In the overall Index, South Africa surpassed Kenya (76th) and Nigeria (88th). Overall, African countries lagged behind in the index, but South Africa took first place in the region.

Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, Surfshark's spokesperson, said in many nations, digital quality of life had merged into the broader concept of overall quality of life.

“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,” Racaityte-Krasauske said.

South Africa’s internet quality was around the global average.

Fixed internet averaged 70 Mbps in South Africa. To put that into perspective, the index authors said the world’s fastest fixed internet, in Singapore, was 300 Mbps. Meanwhile, the slowest fixed internet in the world – Yemen's – was 11 Mbps.

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

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

The report said internet was affordable in South Africa compared to other countries.

South Africans had to work 1 hour and 43 minutes a month to afford fixed broadband internet. While this was less than average, it was six 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 Africa came in 72nd in the world in e-security, seven places lower than last year.

The index’s e-security pillar measures how well a country was prepared to counter cybercrime, as well as how advanced a country’s data protection laws are. South Africa lagged behind Kenya, which ranks 65th, but outperformed Nigeria (73rd) in the e-security pillar. In the global context, South Africa was unprepared to fight against cybercrime, and the country did not have very advanced data protection laws.

South Africa was ranked 94th in e-infrastructure and 61st in e-government.

Advanced e-infrastructure makes it easy for people to use the internet for daily activities such as working, studying and shopping. This pillar evaluated how high internet penetration was in a given country, as well as its network readiness (readiness to take advantage of information and communication technologies). South Africa’s internet penetration was low (58%, 97th in the world), and the country ranked 67th in network readiness.

According to the Digital 2023 South Africa Report published by DataReportal in February, there were 43.48 million internet users in South Africa in January this year. It said South Africa’s internet penetration rate stood at 72.3% of the total population at the start of the year.

Kepios analysis indicated that internet users in South Africa increased by 357 thousand (+0.8 percent) from 2022 to 2023.

These user figures revealed that 16.66 million people in South Africa did not use the internet at the start of 2023, suggesting that 27.7% of the population remained off-line at the beginning of the year.