SA's digital health crashes during Covid-19 pandemic: study

23 September 2021 - 08:00
By Sipokazi Fokazi
A new global research on digital wellbeing has revealed SA’s mediocre results in e-security, ranking it 85th in the world. SA is lagging behind Algeria, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Image: 123RF/RA2 STUDIO A new global research on digital wellbeing has revealed SA’s mediocre results in e-security, ranking it 85th in the world. SA is lagging behind Algeria, Kenya, and Nigeria.

SA’s global digital wellbeing has declined nine places over the past year and is now ranked at 68th out of 110 countries.

However, it is still top when it comes to African states, according to the third annual edition of the Digital Quality of Life (DQL) index.

The research has revealed SA’s mediocre results in e-security, ranking 85th in the world and lagging behind Algeria, Kenya and Nigeria on the continent. E-infrastructure in SA was also about 20% worse than the global average, and the country ranked 87th globally.

Covering 90% of the global population, the DQL study is conducted by the cybersecurity company Surfshark and evaluates countries based on a set of five fundamental digital wellbeing pillars. SA shows better results than the global average in internet affordability, in 26th position.

The 2021 DQL research examined a total population of more than 6.9 billion people in terms of five core pillars and 14 underpinning indicators that provide a comprehensive measure. The study is based on open-source information provided by the UN, the World Bank, Freedom House and the International Communications Union, among others.

Compared to Kenya, SA ranks lower in e-infrastructure and e-security, but it shows better results in internet affordability, internet quality and e-government. Its index grew by 32% compared to last year, and is now about 30% better than the global average.

South Africans have to work 1 hour 38 minutes to afford the cheapest broadband internet package and 59 seconds to afford the cheapest 1GB of mobile internet, which is three minutes less than in 2020. Globally, people spend about 10 minutes of work to afford the 1GB of mobile internet.

“Digital opportunities have proved to be more important than ever during the Covid-19 crisis, stressing the importance for every country to ensure fully remote operational capacities for their economies,” said Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark.

“That is why, for the third year in a row, we continue the Digital Quality of Life research, which provides a robust global outlook into how countries excel digitally. The index sets the basis for meaningful discussions about how digital advancement affects a country’s prosperity and where improvements can be made.”

In an all-around picture, six out of 10 countries holding the highest scores are in Europe, following last year’s trend. Denmark ranks 1st in DQL for the second year in a row and is closely followed by South Korea. Finland ranks third while Israel and the US round out the top five of 110 nations that were evaluated. The bottom five countries are Ethiopia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Guatemala and Angola.

The US stands out as a country with the highest digital quality of life in the Americas, while South Korea takes the leading position in Asia. Among countries in Africa, people in SA enjoy the highest quality of their digital lives whereas Australia leads in Oceania, outperforming New Zealand in various digital areas.

The annual research shows that broadband is globally less affordable this year. Comparing countries included in last year's and this year’s studies, people have to work 11% more (25 minutes more) to afford broadband internet in 2021. But people have to work 29% less (28 minutes less) to afford mobile internet this year.

The world’s worst internet is the least affordable. People in some countries, such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Mali, require about a week’s worth of work to afford the internet.

Investing in electronic infrastructure and electronic government contributes to people’s digital wellbeing the most.