Global VPN downloads surpass 600 million in 2021 H1

Edward G. | August 16, 2021

According to data based on the VPN Adoption Index by Atlas VPN, Virtual Private Network (VPN) downloads sky-rocketed to 616 million in the first half of 2021 from 85 selected countries. 

In 2020, the number of downloads stood at 277 million for the whole year. 

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.

Moreover, individuals can change their IP address to access various streaming services that apply geo-restrictions.

Finally, people turn to VPNs when their countries’ governments block useful applications. One of the most common examples are VoIP services - short for Voice over Internet Protocol, or in simple terms, phone services over the internet, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, etc.

The VPN Adoption Index created by the Atlas VPN research aims to provide a clear overview of how Virtual Private Network services are being adopted worldwide. 

VPN adoption refers to the percentage of the country's population that downloaded VPN applications throughout the specified period.

Just like the previous year, most of the countries on the top 10 list (7 out of 10) are Arab countries. 

To see the full VPN usage by country list, please click here.

The reason behind the high adoption rates remains the same  — governments in Arab countries tend to employ some of the most stringent internet restrictions globally. 

ISPs (internet service providers) in most Arab nations prohibit any information that violates Islam's moral principles, with pornographic websites being the primary target. Furthermore, ISPs restrict politically sensitive topics, particularly those that criticize the government.

What is more, expatriates also suffer from internet restrictions, as VoIP services are often banned in Arab countries. People have no choice but to turn to VPNs to reach out to their families. 

Some governments, like the one in Oman, even monitor their citizens’ conversations over mobile phones, e-mail, and online chat rooms. Officials go as far as interrogating citizens who were caught bad-mouthing the government.

VPN Adoption in India explodes

Prior to 2021, the VPN penetration rate in India hovered around 3%, which is near the bottom of the list globally.  

Yet, by far, the most significant growth in the number of downloads in H1 2021 was in India, where VPN installs exploded to a staggering 348.7 million, representing a growth of 671% over 2020. 

This increase can be attributed to the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem in India. From 2015 through 2020, India's internet user base grew at a rate of 24% each year on average, according to our estimations.

At the start of 2020, India's internet penetration rate has hit 50%. In other words, half of India's population uses the internet on a regular basis. Given that only 19 percent of Indians actively utilized the internet in 2015, this is a significant development.

Furthermore, India constantly stands at the top of the list in terms of internet shutdowns by the government. This year alone, various regions in India have seen 21 internet shutdowns. 

India also holds the record for the longest internet shutdown in a democracy, which extended from August 4, 2019, to March 4, 2020. No wonder its citizens are concerned about their digital privacy and security. 

Closing remarks 

Once again the findings reveal that the main factor when it comes to the countries’ VPN adoption is how stringent are the internet restrictions employed by the government.

These restrictions often go against one of the main positive aspects of the internet - the freedom to express your opinion, to be heard, and to pull global attention to issues that might otherwise be hidden by the countries’ officials.  

Atlas VPN believes that the internet should be open to everyone, which is why we run on a freemium business model. Meaning, anyone, irrespective of their budget can use our service to enjoy a secure and restriction-free internet. 

Get Atlas VPN on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, here

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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