Israel climbs to 1st spot worldwide in digital quality of life survey

Israel’s mobile internet affordability is top-notch but the quality is iffy and the infrastructure needs work, according to the annual Digital Quality of Life Index 2022, which ranked Israel first overall on digital well-being among 117 countries worldwide.

Israel climbed to the first spot — overtaking Denmark’s two-year lead — from fourth in last year’s survey, and eighth in 2020.

The survey is compiled annually by the virtual private network provider Surfshark, based on factors such as internet affordability and quality, infrastructure and digital government services.

Denmark moved to second place, with Germany, France and Sweden rounding out the top five in the 2022 index. The Netherlands, Finland, Japan, the UK and South Korea came in next for the top 10. The US dropped to 12th place, behind Lithuania, from fifth last year.

Congo, Yemen, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Cameroon had the worst showings and were in the bottom five countries.

The annual survey, now in its fourth year, evaluates countries based on a set of five “pillars” — internet affordability, internet quality, e-infrastructure, e-security and e-government — and 14 indicators such as internet speed, GDP per capita, mobile internet price and broadband internet price. The study is based on open-source information provided by the United Nations, World Bank, Freedom House, International Communications Union and other sources.

In the 2022 survey, Israel boasted the most affordable mobile internet access in the world. The index looked at the number of hours people had to work per month to afford access and found that Israelis can buy 1GB of mobile internet for as cheap as 5 seconds of work per month, 58 times less than in the US. Broadband internet affordability was more expensive, at 19 minutes of work, but better than the global average of six hours of work.

A graph showing the countries with the highest digital well-being status in 2022. (Surfshark, CC BY 3.0)

Israel had a mixed showing in the other categories. For internet quality, which looks at the speed and stability of mobile and broadband connections, Israel dropped to 21st place from 11th in 2021. Chile shot up to first place in this pillar, followed by Denmark and the United Arab Emirates. The US came in sixth.

In electronic infrastructure, which determines how well-developed and inclusive a country’s existing electronic infrastructure may be, Israel ranked 28th, up one spot from 29th in 2021. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands were in the top three.

In e-government, which measures how advanced and digitized a country’s government services are, Israel dropped down to the 33rd sport, down from 29th last year, and well below the US, which came in first place in this category, and all European countries .

“Better e-government helps to minimize the bureaucracy, reduce corruption and increase the transparency of the public sector. It also improves the efficiency of public services and helps people save time, influencing the quality of their digital lives,” the organization explained in supporting materials.

In electronic security, which examines a country’s preparedness to counter cybercrimes and its commitment to protecting online privacy, the Startup Nation with one of the strongest cybersecurity sectors in the world, dropped to the 32nd rank, down from 29th last year. Greece ranked first for this pillar for the second year running, according to the index, followed by Belgium and Lithuania.

Israel’s lackluster infrastructure

Generally, Israel has relatively slow internet due to lack of competition, and a reform aimed at upgrading the infrastructure was derailed and is the basis of a graft case against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to the most recent report by M-Lab — a partnership between New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research, Princeton University’s Planet Lab and others, and compiled by Cable — Israel ranked 67th out of 224 countries for internet speed in 2021.

According to the data, Israel has a mean download speed of 34.97 megabits per second, above the global average of 28.69 Mbps but below the Netherlands with about 107 Mbps, Singapore with 97.61 and the US with a mean download speed of 92.42 Mbps.

The country’s efforts to roll out high-speed internet infrastructure using fiber optic cables have yielded mediocre results so far, although the Ministry of Communications said this summer that some 70 percent of Israeli households are expected to have access by the end of the year.

Fiber optic networks, which use light signals beamed along hollow cables rather than electricity along copper wires, as the current systems use, can offer download speeds of several gigabits per second. Current speeds are measured in tens of megabits per second.

Fiber optic networks are considered the best way to provide faster connections in a world that is becoming more and more connected to the internet — from smart cars to smart homes and fridges and TVs. Faster internet speeds are also necessary to use advanced technologies such as virtual and artificial reality and for advanced data delivery requirements or even high definition TV transmissions. Higher internet speeds have also been linked to GDP growth and in helping close social inequalities, research has shown.

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