Qatar and UAE stand at the top of VPN adoption

William S. | January 17, 2024

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have become an essential digital tool for many internet users around the world who are concerned about their online privacy and security. However, adoption and usage rates of VPNs vary significantly across different countries and regions.

According to the latest update of the Global VPN Adoption Index by Atlas VPN, Virtual Private Network apps were downloaded 328 million times. Qatar stands at the top of the adoption index as nearly 70% of its population has downloaded a VPN app. Second on this list is the United Arab Emirates, followed by Singapore.

To get a clear perspective on the current VPN adoption rate in the world, the Atlas VPN research team analyzed Virtual Private Network application downloads in 86 selected countries. The VPN download data is extracted from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store using the AppTweak service. Download data includes the 45 biggest VPN providers.

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

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Qatar’s large VPN adoption can be attributed to its large population of immigrant workers, primarily from Southeast Asia and Africa, who account for nearly 80% of the country's total population. These immigrant groups frequently use VPNs to access information from their home countries that may be restricted in Qatar.

UAE has consistently ranked at the top for global VPN usage, and this year is no exception. The driving factor behind the UAE's sky-high VPN adoption is the country's stringent internet censorship and restrictions. Authorities ban access to information deemed incompatible with Islamic values.

Over 50% of Singapore’s population has downloaded a VPN app. Singapore's internet landscape and technological culture have cultivated an environment ideal for the proliferation of VPN services. As a highly wired country with a strong digital infrastructure and a tech-savvy population, Singapore possesses all the right ingredients for mass VPN usage. 

Other Middle Eastern countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey are also among the top countries in VPN adoption. Similarly to the UAE, they have all enacted varying degrees of internet censorship and online content restrictions.

VPN adoption changes in other countries

VPN utilization continues evolving quickly, with new motivations emerging for citizens worldwide to seek out VPN services. Overall, complex factors around privacy attitudes, government oversight, access to restricted content, and technological readiness significantly reshape global VPN usage trends.

Netherlands VPN adoption has grown substantially in the past years. From nearly 10% in 2020 to 29% this year. It is the first time any European country has made our top 5 VPN usage rank. What primarily explains this abrupt ascent is the Dutch government's institution of far-reaching surveillance laws enabled under the new Computer Crime III framework.

France and Australia cracked the top 10 list for global VPN use this year, coming in 9th and 10th place, respectively. An estimated 16% of the French population has now downloaded a VPN application. Similarly, over 15% of Australians have become active VPN users.

For the first time, we have added Iceland to our updated VPN Adoption Index. They came out strong right away, as 12.5% of Iceland’s population have downloaded a VPN app and placed 20th on our list.

Kenya, Japan, and South Africa are countries with the lowest VPN usage in the world. All of these countries have less than 2% adoption rate.

VPN adoption continues to increase significantly worldwide, driven by citizens seeking safe alternatives to invasive online surveillance and heavy-handed censorship regimes imposed by governments. Countries with strict internet controls consistently see the highest VPN usage rates as users route connections through encrypted tunnels.

​​To see where your country ranks in terms of VPN adoption, please head over to our interactive VPN adoption page here.

William S.

William S.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Focused on revealing the latest cybersecurity trends around the world.

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