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Best and worst countries to live a connected life

Read time 7min 50sec
Expats rank Estonia, Finland and Norway as the best countries in terms of a digital environment, while Myanmar, China and Egypt are rated the worst.
Expats rank Estonia, Finland and Norway as the best countries in terms of a digital environment, while Myanmar, China and Egypt are rated the worst.

South Africa ranks 49th out of 68 countries when it comes to the best and worst countries to live a connected life.

This is according to the first Digital Life Abroad Report from online expatriate network, InterNations, which broke down the best and worst countries to live a digital life abroad.

The results, based on the group's annual expat insider survey, reveal Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand are tops when it comes to offering a digital environment. Expats in these countries are very satisfied with their unrestricted access to online services and the possibility to pay without cash almost anywhere.

At the other end of the scale, Myanmar, China, Egypt, India and the Philippines are rated the worst countries for digital life. Expats in these countries struggle with a lack of government services online, difficult access to high-speed Internet at home, or even restrictions in their use of online services.

Expats living in African countries are not too happy with their digital life, either. Kenya was the highest ranked out of five African countries surveyed but came midfield overall in 31st place, followed by South Africa in 49th and Morocco in 58th place. Coming in 59th and 66th, respectively, Uganda and Egypt are among the 10 worst countries in the world.

Local is not so lekker

South Africa ranks among the bottom 10 countries worldwide in terms of ease of getting a local mobile phone number (59th), with 12% of expats saying it is difficult. This is five percentage points more than the global average of 7%.

The country does not fare much better when it comes to the availability of government or administration services online, ranking 58th out of 68 countries worldwide. In fact, close to half the expats are unsatisfied with the services provided, which is nearly double the global average of 26%.

Difficulties in getting access to high-speed Internet at home (52nd) also contributed to SA's poor ranking for digital life, with 21% of expats unhappy with this factor, compared to 16% negative ratings globally.

The country achieves its best rank for making cashless payments, coming 23rd globally. Over nine in 10 expats (91%) say it is easy to pay without cash, which is 13 percentage points above the global average of 78%.

South Africa's BRICS partners also did not fair that well, with Brazil coming one spot behind SA in 50th place, India was 65th and China second last in 67th place while Russia fared the best in 25th place.

Kenya was ranked as the best African country for digital life and almost nine in 10 expats there are happy with their unrestricted access to online services, which came well above the global average. Making cashless payments in Kenya also seems to be easy, with expats giving it a 94% positive rating.

What is more, Kenya comes in fifth in the world for ease of getting a local mobile phone number, just beaten by Myanmar, New Zealand, Israel and Estonia. Close to every expat in the country (95%) says it is easy, compared to 86% globally. On the other hand, Kenya struggles to provide administrative or government services online (46th), with around 39% of expats unsatisfied with the availability.

Ranking a low 58th place for digital life overall, Morocco is among the worst 10 countries in the world for the ease of getting high-speed Internet access at home (59th), the availability of administrative or government services online (63rd), and the ease of making cashless payments (66th). In terms of cashless payments, Morocco only ranks ahead of Argentina and Myanmar, with 38% of respondents in Morocco saying it is difficult to pay without cash. On the other hand, Morocco ranks among the best countries in the world for the ease of getting a local mobile phone number (10th).

Ranking one place below Morocco is Uganda in 59th place out of 68 countries. Uganda receives its lowest ratings for getting access to high-speed Internet at home (65th) and paying without cash (61st). Almost 40% of expats in Uganda are unsatisfied with access to high-speed Internet at home and a third rate cashless payment opportunities negatively. In fact, 12% say it is very difficult to pay without cash in Uganda; only five other countries worldwide have higher percentages in this regard: Germany, Argentina, Egypt, Japan and Myanmar. On the bright side, Uganda ranks among the top 10 countries regarding how easy it is to get a local mobile phone number (8th), with 97% of expats saying this is not an issue.

North African country Egypt ranks third worst in the world, in 66th place. Almost 70% of expats in Egypt are unsatisfied with the availability of administrative or government services online, which is the highest share worldwide (together with Myanmar). Digital life in Egypt is made even harder due to the slow Internet speed, with close to half the expats (47%) finding it hard to get access to high-speed Internet at home. Expats are also unhappy with the ease of paying without cash (35% negative ratings) and the access to online services such as social media (19% negative ratings). Only getting a local mobile phone number seems to be fairly easy in Egypt (39th out of 68 countries).

Best experience

The best place to live as a digital-savvy expat seems to be Estonia, which came in first place. The country is rated best in the world for both unrestricted access to online services and the availability of government services online. In fact, 96% of expats judge the access to online services favourably, with 86% saying it could not be any better.

Scandinavian countries came out tops, with Finland, Norway and Denmark coming in second, third and fourth place respectively. Paying without cash seems to be no issue at all in Finland, which comes first in the world for this factor. Expats in Finland are also happy with the ease of getting high-speed Internet at home (96%), the availability of administrative or government services online (88%), and the unrestricted access to online services such as social media (94%).

Norway ranks among the top 10 countries for most rating factors regarding digital life, but it drops drastically to 50th place for the ease of getting a local mobile number. Denmark ranks second worldwide for the ease of cashless payments (97% satisfied), only beaten by Finland. Additionally, nine in 10 expats living in Denmark (90%) rate the availability of administrative or government online services positively.

New Zealand comes in fifth place overall and 98% of expats say it is easy to get a local mobile number, which is the highest share in the world. What is more, 99% of expats are happy with the ease of cashless payments. When it comes to the availability of government services online, another 91% agree the access is good.

The rest of the top 10 is rounded off by Israel, Canada, Singapore, the Netherlands and the US.

Bottom of the barrel

The three worst countries for expat digital lives are Myanmar, China and Egypt.

Myanmar seems to still be a long way from becoming a digital society. The country is the world's worst-rated destination to pay without cash and get access to high-speed Internet at home. However, Myanmar ranks first worldwide for the ease of getting a local mobile phone number. Nearly all expats (96%) find this easy, compared to 86% globally.

China is by far the worst country for unrestricted access to social media, with 83% being unsatisfied, which is over eight times the global average and 37 percentage points higher than Saudi Arabia (46%), the destination with the second-worst ranking.

Expats in China are also extremely unsatisfied with access to high-speed Internet at home (38% negative ratings), the ease of getting a local mobile phone number (14%), and the availability of administrative or government services online (52%).

For a country to be featured in the expat insider survey and subsequently in the Digital Life Abroad Report, a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per destination was necessary. In 2018, 68 met this requirement, with over 18 000 expatriates taking part in the survey, representing 178 nationalities and living in 187 countries or territories.

Global digital life rankings


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