Virtual private networks (VPNs) have become an important digital tool for many Internet users around the world who are concerned about their privacy and security online.
According to the latest update of the Global VPN Adoption Index from Atlas VPN, virtual private networking apps have been downloaded 328 million times. Qatar is at the top of the adoption index, with nearly 70% of its population having downloaded a VPN app. The United Arab Emirates is second on the list, followed by Singapore.
VPN use varies greatly from country to country. Countries with Internet restrictions ban social media platforms, websites, apps, and apply numerous other censorship tools. Users turn to VPNs to avoid these restrictions. In addition, many people connect to a VPN to ensure their privacy and security online.
In 2020, people from 86 selected countries downloaded VPN apps more than 277 million times. In 2021, this number rose to 785 million; in 2022, the number of VPN downloads dropped to 353 million. In 2023, the number of VPN downloads worldwide fell even further, to 328 million.
Explanation of the high level VPN
Experts attribute the high level of VPN usage in Qatar to the large number of immigrant workers, mainly from Southeast Asia and Africa, who account for almost 80% of the country’s total population.
The UAE is consistently ranked first in terms of VPN usage in the world, and this year is no exception. More than 50% of Singapore’s population has downloaded a VPN app. Singapore’s Internet landscape and tech culture have created an ideal environment for the spread of VPN services.
Other Middle Eastern countries, such as Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey, are also among the top VPN users.
“VPN usage continues to grow significantly around the world as citizens seek safe alternatives to invasive online surveillance and harsh censorship regimes imposed by governments. Countries with strict internet controls have consistently seen the highest levels of VPN usage as users route their connections through encrypted tunnels,” said Vilus Kardelis, author of the cybersecurity article at Atlas VPN.
Changes in VPN adoption in other countries
Complex factors related to attitudes toward privacy, government surveillance, access to restricted content, and technological readiness are significantly influencing global VPN usage trends.
VPN usage in the Netherlands has grown significantly in recent years. From almost 10% in 2020 to 29% this year. For the first time, no European country is in the top 5 of the VPN usage ranking.
France and Australia ranked 9th and 10th respectively.
Kenya, Japan, and South Africa are the countries with the lowest VPN usage rates in the world. In all of these countries, the usage rate is less than 2%.
Reducing the level of VPNs in Ukraine
Ukraine ranks 33rd in terms of VPN usage at 9%. At the same time, it was 17.2% in 2022 and 16.3% in 2021. If we recall the situation back then, the growth in VPN use was associated with the ban on the use of Russian social networks VK and Odnoklassniki.
However, with the outbreak of a full-scale war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine, this interest has finally disappeared.