The Digital Quality of Life, or DQL, study examines the gaps between citizens’ online experiences on a society-to-society basis. In almost every aspect of life, the digital world impacts everyone. From day-to-day commutes to workplace computing, smartphones and computers are everywhere.

Some countries stand out from the norm, however, in terms of Internet security, speed, and ease-of-access. While it’s wise to use a reliable VPN service, you’ll probably be safer when visiting some countries over others. Still, not all nations perform well where the digital space is considered.

The Highest Digital Quality of Life: Australia

Despite being a ‘third-world’ broadband country, Australia has an incredibly prosperous digital environment. Not only does it have affordable mobile Internet—but it’s also overcome a relatively slow network delivery time by assuring quality e-government services.

What Defines DQL?

When it comes to Digital Quality of Life, it can be difficult to identify what, exactly, makes a country’s Internet valuable. After years of data analytics, many researchers have covered the digital experiences of over 5.5 billion people.

These studies were conducted with open-source databases provided by the World Bank, United Nations, International Telecommunication Union and Freedom House—and, in most cases, every bit of information provided by any of these sources was compared to collected data at large.

Where DQL is considered, researchers tend to rate a country’s digital ‘quality’ based upon the most important features of Internet use in today’s digital landscape. These include, but expand upon, the following:

  • Connection speed
  • Affordability
  • Cybersecurity
  • E-government service quality

Each of these qualities are expandable, of course. Cybersecurity, for example, covers data protection law availability—as well as public WiFi safety. In Australia’s case, affordability—specifically of mobile data—has propelled it to the top of the DQL list.

Mobile Data Affordability in Australia

Researchers have found that, while Australia’s broadband Internet is slow, its mobile Internet is quite fast. It’s so fast, in fact, that it’s quicker than the country’s broadband! Australia might not have the speediest online experience around, but its mobile Internet landscape, alone, has allowed it to pass 65 other countries in the 2019 DQL index.

It’s important to note Australia’s slow broadband, of course. Broadband in Australia has similar speeds to societies ranking at the bottom of the DQL list—landing at the 42nd spot, just behind Uruguay. Not only is Australia’s Internet slow, but it’s also quite expensive.

This is because residents of countries with lower DQL scores benefit from the cheaper broadband Internet—as the high-DQL Internet is considered to be more ‘valuable.’ In Australia, citizens need to work for approximately an hour and 21 minutes to maintain the country’s cheapest of broadband Internet services.

The NBN Network and 5G Data

Several of Australia’s Internet experts have weighed in on the broadband issue—particularly how it’s influenced the country’s quality of mobile data usage. The National Broadband Network, recently, has created an increasingly problematic digital divide between those with poor Internet connections and those benefiting from fast Internet access.

The NBN itself is a mixed-technology network, costing about $51 billion in taxpayer dollars. About five million businesses and homes currently use the NBN across seven different service plans—each of which tends to be inconsistent.

It’s suggested that the NBN’s unreliability has made it somewhat of a “lottery,” causing issues for everything from high-end video consumption to medical diagnoses. Australia’s placement as a third-world broadband country is symptomatic of this, yet the recent 5G mobile data network has picked up the weight.

Australia’s usage of 5G is highly optimized. While 5G isn’t a replacement for the NBN, it’s certainly capable of being one of Australia’s hearts of Internet access. From societal and economic perspectives, 5G’s technical capabilities are highly effective for infrastructure management—existing as a sort of “soft” wireless Internet foundation.

High-Quality E-Government Services

Mobile data affordability and speed aren’t the only areas Australia excels in. It also ranks seventh out of 65 countries in the DQL index in terms of e-government service quality. Above Australia were South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, the United States and Singapore. Denmark won the first-place spot.

Digital quality of life measured by government e-service quality covered service accessibility online. Specifically, accessibility capable of saving citizens time and money was analyzed. The DQL’s -government service quality ranks gauged the scope of each government service individually, utilizing the United Nations’ Online Service Index—or OSI.

OSI Measurement in Australia

The OSI gauges the quality of a government’s digital services, stating that high OSI ratings indicate Internet provisions that maintain high degrees of safety without sacrificing feasibility or cost. The United Nations’ Online Service Index is frequently updated to maintain high-quality examinations of Internet usage, making it one of the most reliable services around.

In the DQL, a country’s OSI is multiplied by a 0.16 weight factor—procuring a final e-government service index number augmented for relation to other digital quality measurements. E-government services have a large multiplier, in comparison to other DQL aspects, as it’s considered to have one of the biggest impacts on day-to-day Internet use comfort and safety.

Integrated E-Government Services

E-government service quality has increased steadily over the years—experiencing a particularly strong growth spurt following the 2016 DDoS attacks on its Census and Centrelink’s debt recovery system. Deloitte Access Economics estimates that Australia’s federal governments conduct about 811 million digital citizen transactions every year—and Australia itself achieves only moderate performance compared to other countries when it comes to money management online.

As a result, data’s importance as new business fuel in Australia has become a forefront factor to consider. According to the OECD, Australia’s adoption of data-driven decision-making processes in recent years can result in a five to six-percent output increase in digital productivity.

A High Degree of Tech Knowledge Transfer

Australia’s data utilization and management shifts have enabled skills and knowledge transfer on a broad economy scale, benefiting the country from technology take-up productivity changes. A higher degree of digital technology adoption across Australia’s economy can add as much as $66 billion to the country’s GDP within a five-year time-span, further increasing e-government service potential.

Less Time with Direct Government Engagement

Integrated e-government services also benefit the country’s citizens with lesser government engagement times. As digital signatures make transactions simpler, government services across the digital world are becoming streamlined via digital signatures governing transactions.

Submitting applications and signing contracts can be done in moments, and day-to-day hassles when navigating jurisdictions—such as with license transfers—may become a problem of the past. Currently, Australia already has a number of user-friendly Internet portal resources available—and it’s planning on incorporating more citizen-centric services in the future to positively impact business engagement.

More Secure Digital Identities, Key to a Digital Quality of Life

Australia’s Trusted Digital Identity Framework is also in good shape. Outlining a persistent, consistent approach to online identity security, the Digital Identity Framework is expected to become a vital component of integrated online services in the near future.

From 2018 to 2019, it received $92 million in funding, resulting in great growth as well as the underpinning of Govepass—an eID. This eID duplicates the Australia Post’s Digital iD, offering several positive changes to benefit the public.

Australia’s Open Data Movement

The City of Sydney has contributed to the Country’s open data movement which makes data format diversity much easier to handle. In its contribution, Sydney provided made several data ranges, ever-growing, accessible to the public. Each dataset includes information on transport, environmental sustainability, facilities, arts, culture and more.

Opened data facilitates the management, and even creation, of open services for the community and private sectors alike—stimulating the economy and increasing transparency. It also decreases the number of information requests, directly reducing workloads across administrations.

Decentralized Approaches to Data Security

Another inspiring quality of Australia’s data management structure is the country’s decentralized approach to data sharing, management and security. Promoting the use of secure data exchanges doesn’t necessarily require the use of a single database—or superdatabase—which handles data from numerous databases.

In fact, such single-database usage poses some serious security risks. Decentralized database usage, meanwhile, empowers IT solutions across Australia’s three government tiers. Such adoption has given each tier the ability to communicate with each other with a high degree of security, solving several database integration issues.

This movement is underpinned by the pre-identification of both data senders and recipients. Data is encrypted, so as to ensure it’s unreadable in the event of interception. All data transactions are timestamped, and legal electronic logging and archiving audits are performed often.

Addressed Privacy Concerns

Privacy risks are persistent in any country, but Australia’s approach to mitigating cybersecurity risks also makes it a top-contending digital provider. Here, the country puts citizens in the driver’s seat, allowing them to help conduct the e-government model.

Every time a government agency accesses a citizen’s personal data, for example, the user can examine the access via extensive logs. They’re able to contest the usage if they deem it improper, and those wanting to stay away from digital identity services entirely can opt to use a physical service center.

Australia is also planning to create an opt-in approach to digital identity management, yet the framework is still being developed so as to assure the integrity of its usage across private-sector organizations.

Australia as a Leading Digital Provider

The country’s overall usage of data highlights it as one of the safest and most accessible Internet providers of today. While its broadband connections may be slow, they’re incredibly secure.

Meanwhile, Australia’s mobile networks are only growing in popularity for their ease-of-accessibility and speed. In the digital world, Australia’s high digital quality of life is prevalent over other countries. So much so, in fact, it’s expected to become a leading example of digital implementations in the future.

Author Bio: This post was written by Naomi Hodges, Cybersecurity Advisor for Surfshark.

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