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Global VPN Downloads Surge to 277 Million in 2020, Arab Countries Lead

According to data based on the VPN Adoption Index by Atlas VPN, Virtual Private Network (VPN) downloads reached 277 million in 2020 worldwide.

A Virtual Private Network hides the user’s real IP address and encrypts his browsing traffic. In turn, these changes prevent nosy 3-rd parties such as hackers, ISP (Internet Service Provider), or even the government from tracking the user’s online activities.

Interestingly, the top 4 VPN adopters are Arab countries, which, to be exact, are: The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Here, on average, VPNs penetrate 44.75% of the market. In other words, 4 out of 10 citizens in these countries downloaded a Virtual Private Network application in 2020.

The top ten countries globally with the highest VPN adoption rate are:

Pos. Country Downloads Population VPN adoption
1 United ArabEmirates 6,093,301 9.89M 61.61%
2 Qatar 1,528,763 2.88M 53.06%
3 Oman 1,805,378 5.11M 35.36%
4 Saudi Arabia 10,081,329 34.81M 28.96%
5 Azerbaijan 2,267,024 10.14M 22.36%
6 Kuwait 933,664 4.27M 21.86%
7 Singapore 945,425 5.85M 16.16%
8 Indonesia 41,960,387 273.52M 15.34%
9 Great Britain 8,192,613 67.89M 12.07%
10 United States 38,117,671 331M 11.52%

Data reveals the fact that the VPN adoption rate correlates with how strict the internet censorship and other online restrictions are in that country. Most of these countries ban any content that is against Islam values or criticizes the government.

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COVID-19 impact on VPN usage

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Strict internet restrictions are not the only driving force behind the high VPN adoption rate last year.

From February 2020, people started staying at home due to the closure of offices, public venues and the cancellation of public gatherings caused by the pandemic. People began using the internet more often, with many of them choosing to watch TV shows and movies.

But certain streaming services, such as Netflix, BBC, and Amazon Prime, apply geo-restrictions for viewing the content. However, a VPN provides a way to bypass those blockages.

Moreover, in many companies, the majority of employees started working from home. In turn, to protect the company’s data from hackers, employers required their workers to use VPNs.

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Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN, shares her insights on how the VPN market shifted in 2020:

“The year 2020 will be remembered as a year when VPNs became mainstream since millions of people shifted to remote work amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, to access a company’s network, most people have to use VPN to protect their as well as their employers’ data.”

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