If you’re looking for the best digital quality of life in the world, Denmark seems like the place to go.
According to a survey released Monday by VPN provider Surfshark, Hamlet’s home country ranked first among 110 countries based on five “pillars” of measurement: Internet affordability, Internet quality, infrastructure, security and government.
Within the pillars are 14 “indicators” that further refine the measurement of quality of life. Within the infrastructure pillar, for example, there are two indicators: internet user and network readiness.
Countries were judged based on index points with the best possible value equal to one. Denmark had the highest score with a 0.83, followed by South Korea (0.76), Finland (0.76), Israel (0.74), the US (0.74) and Singapore (0.72) .
2021 Digital Quality of Life Index (Source: surf shark)
“The research methodology seems pretty solid,” noted Charles King, the lead analyst at Pund-ITa technology consulting firm, in Hayward, California.
“Surfshark has improved the study since its launch in 2019, both in terms of the areas surveyed and the number of countries and regions surveyed,” he told TechNews All.
Early Internet Adoption
Roslyn Layton, senior vice president at Beach Consult, a technology consultancy based in Copenhagen, Denmark, noted that the findings in the Surfshark study are similar to those reported in International Telecommunications Union reports. “Denmark consistently ranks at the top,” she told TechNews All.
“Denmark was an early adopter of the Internet and quickly put all its government online,” explains Layton, a naturalized Danish citizen. “It created tools for individuals and businesses to communicate with government.”
“In the United States, there is a lot of paperwork involved in dealing with the government,” she continued. “Denmark immediately made that digital. That was a way to encourage the adoption of the internet by everyone.”
“As a result, the government systems are very usable, integrated, seamless and secure,” she said. “It’s been like that for twenty years.”
However, in the Surfshark study, the United States finished first in the e-government category, while Denmark came in sixth.
Most and least developed countries in the e-government category (Image Credit: Surfshark)
“That may be justified compared to other countries, but our research has shown that the US still has a lot of room for improvement in the provision of electronic government services,” said Joe Kane, director of spectrum and broadband policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ( ITIF), a science and technology think tank in Washington, DC
Need more competition
Kane claimed that Denmark has a number of other advantages over the United States when it comes to cultivating digital life there.
“Denmark is a rich, dense country,” he told TechNews All. “This makes it relatively easy to connect the entire province at affordable prices and deliver high-quality government services.”
Denmark ranks first in countries with the most affordable internet. At the other end of the spectrum, the five least affordable internet countries are all located on the continent of Africa. (Image credit: SurfShark)
Layton added that Denmark also has a program to keep the costs of rolling out networks low. “Permissions to build networks have been streamlined,” she explains. “Providers are encouraged to compete and invest.”
That contrasts with the competitive scene in the United States. “There’s no competition in many places in the US, so there’s not much incentive for providers to upgrade,” said Jack E. Gold, founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associatesan IT consulting firm in Northborough, Massachusetts.
“That’s changing and changing quickly,” he told TechNews All, “because of 5G and fixed wireless access in many areas.”
However, he insisted that the United States could be more competitive with other countries if it adopted broadband policies. “Many European countries have policies that say, ‘You will do this, and we will fund it.’ That gives some countries an advantage’, he explains. “In the US, it’s all about private entrepreneurship.”
Well done, despite challenges
King noted that while the US is a leading market in both technology development and products, the federal government’s business-friendly approach has resulted in wide disparities in Internet quality, availability and cost. “The ‘digital divide’ remains wide, especially in rural and smaller communities,” he said.
“In the United States, there are people without digital skills,” Layton added. “They lack education. Many have no interest in going online at all, although that has certainly changed with Covid – and because the United States is a much larger country, you have the cost of bringing networks to rural areas.”
“The US has done well given its challenges,” she continued, “but it still has a problem with people not trusting the government.”
When comparing the United States to other countries in the Surfshark study, it’s important to note how much bigger the U.S. is for the countries above it in the rankings, claimed Bruce Leichtman, president, director and analyst with the Leichtman research group in Durham, NH
The US has about 125 million households, compared to 2.7 million in Denmark, 21.5 million in South Korea, 1.5 million in Finland and 2.1 million in Israel. “So you could say that given the size of the US it performs very well,” he told TechNews All.
Although South Korea finished second in the overall ranking, it took first place in Internet quality and growth in both broadband and mobile speed.
“One of the reasons South Korea has a lot of bandwidth is that gaming is very popular there,” Gold explains. He added that the government has created the policy to provide fast broadband for everyone in the coming years.
Best and Worst Countries for Internet Quality (Image Credit: Surfshark)
“South Korea has long been proactive in supporting the development and implementation of advanced Internet-based services and solutions,” King said. “Add leading tech companies to that, including Samsung, SK and LG, and South Korea’s ranking is no surprise.”
Much of South Korea’s digital infrastructure is relatively new, unlike the United States. “A lot of the infrastructure we have in the US is 30, 40 years old and hasn’t been upgraded,” Gold said. “Many of the newer, fast-growing countries have introduced or upgraded things in recent years. That makes a big difference.”
While Surfshark’s study may intrigue some, Gold cautioned that digital quality of life can be a highly subjective thing. “What you need and what I need may be very different from what our kids need,” he said.
In addition, Surfshark’s findings may be more interesting to people outside the countries in the study than those in it. “Users in each country are typically satisfied with what they have, even if what they have is better or worse than in other countries,” noted technology analyst. Jeff Kagan.
“While some countries are faster than others, users don’t know or don’t care,” he told TechNews All. “So while these studies are always fun to think about and talk about, I don’t think they make any difference to user satisfaction.”