Italy ranked 57th out of 68 countries around the world when foreign residents were asked to rate the ease of accessing high-speed internet, paying without cash, getting a mobile phone number and other basic digital services, says InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas.
Germany was ranked the second worst in Europe, mostly because of the difficulty foreigners had in getting a mobile phone (More on Germany, Spain, France, Sweden and Denmark below).
Its Digital Life Abroad report places Italy not just behind everywhere in Europe but several countries with a far lower GDP, including Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan and Vietnam.
While three-quarters of expats worldwide were happy with their internet access at home, in Italy the number dropped to 61 percent. The same percentage said it was easy to pay in Italy without cash, compared to 78 percent globally.
Some 82 percent of foreigners in Italy said they'd found getting a mobile phone number simple, slightly below the global average of 86 percent.
International residents were marginally more satisfied with the availability of administrative or government services online, and positively happy with their access to social media: 81 percent of expats reported being satisfied on that count, just above the global average of 80 percent.
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Italy has long lagged behind other EU countries when it comes to internet access (in fact it's such a running joke that The Local once pulled an April Fools' about it). According to the latest figures available from national statistics office Istat, just 69 percent of Italian households had an internet connection in 2016, plummeting to 21 percent among the over-65s.
Poorer, southern regions have proved the slowest to get online: in Calabria and Sicily, less than 60 percent of households were connected to the net.
Those of us who move abroad often find ourselves even more reliant on technology than most, whether it's to keep in touch with people back home, work remotely, or manage bank accounts and other admin overseas.
Worldwide, newcomers were most impressed with digital services in Estonia, Finland and Norway, while Egypt, China and Myanmar performed worst.
InterNations questioned a total of 18,135 residents in 187 countries for its survey, but counted only countries where at least 75 people had taken part.
What the survey revealed about other countries
An excellent 4th place in terms of digital life helps Denmark to make up for its bottom 10 positions for leisure options (64th out of 68 countries) and personal happiness (66th): it comes in 24th place for quality of life overall. The Nordic country ranks 2nd worldwide for the ease of cashless payments (97% satisfied vs. 78% globally), only beaten by Finland. Additionally, nine in ten expats living in Denmark (90%) rate the availability of administrative or government online services positively (vs. 55% globally), while over half (57%) even claim that it is very good (vs. just 23% globally). Only getting a local mobile phone number does not seem to be all that easy in Denmark (46th out of 68 countries), with 6% stating to be unhappy with this factor (about the same as the global average of 7%).
While Sweden narrowly misses out on a spot in the top 10 countries for digital life, its excellent ranking here still makes up the country’s low places in other areas of the Quality of Life Index such as leisure options (66th out of 68) and personal happiness (65th). Sweden gets top marks for being a cashless society (95% positive ratings vs. 78% globally), only beaten by Finland and Denmark worldwide. Expats in Sweden are also happy with the easy access to high-speed internet (15th) and the availability of government or administrative services online (12th): more than four in five expats (83%) rate the former factor positively (vs. 75% globally), and 78% say the same about the availability of government services online (vs. 55% globally). However, getting a local mobile phone number seems to be a weak area of Sweden’s digital life (54th), with just 81% finding this easy compared to a global average of 86%.
Coming in 23rd out of 68 countries for digital life, Spain receives mediocre rankings across the board. The country ranks 25th for both the unrestricted access to online services such as social media (91% satisfied vs. 80% globally) and the availability of administrative/government services online. In fact, just 56% are happy with the latter, compared to 55% globally. However, almost nine in ten expats (89%) agree that it is easy to pay without cash in the country, which is eleven percentage points above the global average (78%), but still results in a mediocre 29th place for this factor. Spain gains its lowest ranks for the ease of getting high-speed internet access at home (30th) and for getting a local mobile phone number (37th).
With a generally poor performance in terms of digital life, it might be no surprise that one Dutch expat states: “France is very backward when it comes to computer literacy. They could really improve in this area.”
The country receives its lowest ratings for the ease of getting a local mobile phone number (56th out of 68 countries), with just 81% saying it is easy, compared to 86% globally.
France also performs below average in terms of high-speed internet at home (43rd), as less than three-quarters (73%) agree that it is easy to access (vs. 75% globally). Coming in 30th for both the availability of online administrative/government services and the ease of paying without cash, these are France’s best results regarding digital life. In fact, 86% of expats find paying without cash easy, compared to 78% globally.
Its below-average ranking for digital life (53rd out of 68 countries) has partly contributed to Germany not making it into the top 10 countries for quality of life for the first time since 2014 (26th out of 68 in 2018). Germany even ranks among the bottom 10 countries in the world for two factors surveyed within the Digital Life subcategory: the ease of getting a local mobile phone number (61st) and paying without cash (59th).
Just four in five expats (80%) find it simple to get a phone number (vs. 86% globally), and just about half (53%) agree that it is easy to pay without cash (vs. 78% globally). “It is a bit annoying that Germany is almost a complete cash society,” shares an expat from Australia. Germany’s ranks for getting access to high-speed internet at home (51st) and unrestricted access to online services such as social media (40th) are just slightly better. However, despite ranking in the bottom half for the latter, 85% of expats in Germany are still satisfied with this factor (vs. 80% globally).
What do you think of Italy's digital services? Did you find it straightforward to get a phone number or broadband connection, and are you able to do essential admin online? Let us know.