Nordic nations best for expats' digital lives

The globally mobile community has assessed Nordic countries as the world's best for digital communications, according to a new report.

laptop typing digital
In the 'Digital Life Abroad' report, the expat social media network InterNations looks at the digital experiences of more than 18,000 respondents in 187 countries.Considerations in the report include such elements as access to high-speed internet, the availability and utility of government services online, any restrictions on the use of online services, the ease of getting a local mobile phone number and cashless payments.

Diverse digital needs of expats

"Over recent years, it has become impossible to imagine a world without digital communication, especially for globally mobile people: staying in touch with loved ones at home, mastering the administrative challenges in a new country, or working remotely as a digital nomad — the digital needs of expats are extremely diverse," says the report.Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand occupy the top five places in the table, mainly due to their unrestricted access to online services and the possibility to pay without cash almost anywhere."But it is not all easy going for expats: getting a local mobile phone number seems to be quite hard in the Nordic countries, while New Zealand’s ratings for the access to high-speed internet at home are just mediocre," adds the report.At the bottom of the table of 66 nations are Myanmar, China, Egypt, India and the Philippines. "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."Interestingly, the worst-rated destination in the world, Myanmar, also holds a surprise: it ranks first for the ease of getting a local mobile phone number."Several other European nations rank in the top 20, including the Netherlands in ninth place and the UK in 15th position. Sweden, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Portugal and Austria are also in the top 20.

Surprise bad rankings for some established economies

But, as a report in – a news website covering the European emerging startup scene – pointed out, "Whilst some European countries were top of the class, curiously some of the countries with the most established economies found themselves on the other end of the ranking list."European economic powerhouse Germany surprised with a relatively disappointing ranking of 53rd place. The federal republic is comparatively uncompetitive when it comes to ease of access to online government services and cashless payments."France scored poorly in terms of the ease of acquiring a local mobile phone number and internet access. It scored best with regard to accessing government services online and ease of payment without cash. Nonetheless, in these two instances, it still only ranked 30th. 

Italy Europe’s poorest performer

"However, the poorest European performer, according to the report, is Italy. The southern European country ranked 57th from a field of 68 countries. Not only was it the straggler in the European context, but Italy also lagged behind developing nations such as Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan and Vietnam."Expats' assessment of Estonia as the world's best came as little surprise to experts: the Baltic state has been pursuing a digital strategy for many years, with the aim of making the country one of the world's most advanced digital societies."For that reason, Estonia has long since implemented a digital identity system so that its citizens can access government services online with ease. Estonian internet speeds are well above the European mean, with little restriction in terms of use or obstacles towards access," commented"It’s not surprising then when 86 per cent of respondents said that access to online services couldn’t possibly be any better. The country caters even more specifically to an important subset of international expats through the provision of a visa catering explicitly to the needs of digital nomads."

InterNations top 10 for digital life:

  1. Estonia
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Denmark
  5. New Zealand
  6. Israel
  7. Canada
  8. Singapore
  9. The Netherlands
  10. USA
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