S'pore top in broadband speed in world digital quality of life index, but slips in mobile speed

The index analyses how digitally advanced a country is and shows key areas where improvements can be made.
The index analyses how digitally advanced a country is and shows key areas where improvements can be made.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore ranked sixth globally in the digital quality of life index, with Internet access and stability, and digital government services among the best provided in the world.

Now in its third year, the index analyses how digitally advanced a country is and shows key areas where improvements can be made.

The Republic climbed six spots among 110 countries surveyed annually by virtual private network service provider Surfshark, which covered 90 per cent of the global population. Its most significant improvements were in Internet affordability and electronic security, with data protection laws tightening from “very low” to “high” over the past year.

Using publicly available data from the United Nations, the World Bank and other institutions, the index measures a country's digital well-being based on five pillars.

These are a country's Internet affordability and quality, digital infrastructure, cyber security and electronic government, which examines how well its services are digitalised.

Denmark held its top spot for the second year in a row, followed by South Korea, Finland, Israel and the United States.

While electronic government remains one of its best-performing metrics, Singapore was knocked off top spot in this pillar to fifth place, based on the online services provided and its readiness to employ artificial intelligence (AI).

The United States rose to No. 1 in this pillar, being the most ready to implement AI.

Well-developed electronic government services can improve the efficiency of public services, and increase the transparency of the public sector, according to a separate Surfshark report.

Singapore placed 13th globally in Internet quality, the study reported. Under this pillar, Singapore had the fastest broadband Internet speed at 230.22Mbps for a second year running, matched with very high network stability.

Its Internet services were also 30 per cent better than the global average, Surfshark added. But the country was held back in this pillar because of stagnating annual improvements made to broadband and mobile Internet speeds.

South Korea, which was unranked last year as it was not documented on Surfshark’s sources, could surpass Singapore in the coming years as it has seen the highest growth rates in Internet quality, the study said.

Singapore also slipped nine positions to rank 17th in terms of fastest mobile Internet.

Internet quality directly impacts the digital quality of life, Surfshark reported, as it boosts work efficiency and allows for better communication.

Despite broadband becoming less affordable around the world, Singapore's Internet affordability ranked 15th worldwide, 60 per cent better than the world average.

The study also found that people in Singapore need to work an average of one hour and 17 minutes to afford the cheapest broadband Internet package and 51 seconds to purchase the cheapest 1GB of mobile Internet.

This is less than the global average of six hours of work needed to afford the cheapest broadband package, and 10 minutes to buy the cheapest 1GB of mobile Internet.

In the past two years, six out of the 10 countries holding the highest scores are in Europe.

The United States jumped to fifth place from 22nd in 2020, after significant improvements in all pillars, particularly Internet quality and electronic infrastructure as more people used the Internet. 

The nations with the poorest performance in digital well-being are Ethiopia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Guatemala and Angola.

Surfshark chief executive officer Vytautas Kaziukonis said in a statement: "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.

"The index sets the basis for meaningful discussions about how digital advancement impacts a country's prosperity and where improvements can be made."