VPN downloads surge 3x to 785 million in 2021

VPN downloads increased 184 percent to 785 million in 2021, according to data based on the  VPN Adoption Index.
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In 2020, the data encryption tool downloads stood at 277 million.

The findings reveal that citizens in Arab countries turn to VPNs the quickest, even though the legality of VPNs in some countries is in a grey area.

Top 10 VNP nations

#1 Qatar
#2 UAE
#3 Singapore
#4 Saudi Arabia
#5 Oman
#6 Kuwait
#7 Pakistan
#8 Kazakistan
#9 Algeria
#10 Bolivia

Qatar had over 2 million downloads originated from Qatar in 2021, amounting to a VPN adoption index of 69.69 percent. One of the main reasons for using a Virtual Private Network in Qatar is to unblock VoIP services, like WhatsApp and Skype.

Also, websites that criticize the government, offer privacy circumvention tools, or are related to pornography and dating are filtered in Qatar.

The United Arab Emirates is the second country on the list in terms of VPN adoption. In 2021, the VPN adoption in United Arab Emirates reached 59.52 percent and 5.89 million downloads, which is slightly lower than that in 2020.

The UAE has one of the strictest laws against the use of VPNs for fraudulent purposes. There is a punishment of temporary imprisonment and a fine of not less than AED 500,000 (USD 136,000) and not more than AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000).

Singapore is in the top five-list. VPN downloads in Singapore jumped to 2.87 million in 2021, which is a 204 percent increase over 2020. VPN adoption index in Singapore comes out to 49.14 percent, while it was only at 16.16 percent in 2020.

Some of the most popular pornographic sites and one of the most popular dating websites are blocked in Singapore. Yet, the government does not block 99 percent of the remaining pornographic and dating content, which is why the restrictions can be regarded as symbolic.

Saudi Arabia had 12.76 million downloads and 36.65 percent adoption. VoIP services are allowed in Saudi Arabia. The government lifted restrictions on VoIP services to make the Kingdom more attractive for outside businesses.

However, many pornographic websites and dating applications, including Tinder, are blocked in Saudi Arabia.

Oman had over 1.71 million downloads originated from Oman, resulting in a VPN adoption score of 33.65 percent.

VoIP services are blocked in Oman, even though Gulf residents raised question of lifting the restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, the filtering on pornographic and dating websites is as strict as in other Arab countries.