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Research: Arab countries form top 5 VPN adopters

October 28, 2020

According to data from the Atlas VPN research team, VPN (Virtual Private Network) downloads reached 134 million in 2020 H1, taking 85 selected countries into account.

VPN is best described as a service that hides the user’s real IP address and encrypts their online traffic. As a result, these changes prevent third parties such as the government, ISP, or hackers, from tracking the user’s activities online.

Various streaming services apply geo-restrictions based on the user’s IP address. However, with a VPN, people can access streaming services even if they are blocked in their country. Also, some governments block specific applications that users find extremely useful, such as VoIP services like WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, etc.

The Atlas VPN report found that the top 10 VPN adopters are: The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Singapore, Turkey, Indonesia, Panama, and Britain. Some 15.32 per cent of the population in these countries installed a VPN service in 2020 H1.

Interestingly, the top 5 VPN adopters are Arab countries, where VPNs penetrate 23.81 per cent of the market.

First up is the UAE – a country with extremely strict internet restrictions. Over 38.72 per cent of the UAE population has downloaded a VPN application in the first half of 2020. Looking at the exact numbers, more than 3.83 million downloads originated from this Arab country.

The UAE’s two main ISPs ban anything against Islam’s moral values, the primary target being pornography websites. Besides, internet service providers censor politically sensitive topics, mostly content that criticizes the government. VoIP services are also banned in the UAE, which is one of the main reasons expatriates choose VPNs as a solution to reach out to their families.

Next in terms of VPN adoption is Qatar – another Gulf country with extensive online restrictions. Research shows that 27.95 per cent of Qatar’s population downloaded VPN applications in the first half of 2020, amounting to more than 805,000 downloads.

Qatar’s government censors political criticism of the Arab world, pornography, all gay and lesbian related content, dating services, and privacy tools. Users in Qatar complain that even websites that should not be a part of this list are blocked.

Third on the list is Oman – a country that ranks as the 69th most peaceful country globally. Over 23.82 per cent of Oman’s population downloaded VPN software in the first six months of 2020. Close to 1.22 million Oman citizens downloaded VPN apps in 2020 H1.

The complete Top 10:

1. UAE
2, Qatar
3. Oman
4. Saudi Arabia
5. Kuwait
6. Singapore
7. Turkey
8. Indonesia
9. Panama
10. Britain

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