People in the UAE downloaded less number of virtual private networks (VPNs) apps in 2021 as compared to previous years but it was still the second-highest penetration of VPNs worldwide after Qatar.

According to Atlas VPN data shared exclusively with Khaleej Times, 5.886 million VPN apps were downloaded in 2021 as against 6.093 million in the previous year, with a penetration rate of 59.52 per cent as against 69.69 per cent penetration rate in Qatar.

“The UAE was the second country in terms of VPN adoption globally both in 2020 and 2021. The number of downloads remained rather constant between these two years. It might indicate that there is demand for VPN services in UAE, which is 6 million downloads per year. Considering the population of the country, this is a staggering amount,” Atlas VPN said.

Why the drop in VPN download

The drop in VPN downloads is attributed to people being more concerned about their privacy as many of them now use their devices for official work at home after the Covid-19 pandemic which might compromise the official data.

“Some VPNs slow the internet connectivity speed, consume more data of mobile phones and sometimes slow down the devices as well. Many low-quality free VPNs don't work well for long,” said an analyst.

NordVPN said it is pretty difficult to download VPNs in the Gulf countries though the UAE doesn’t prohibit using a VPN for businesses, corporate institutions, and banks to securely access their networks. But its misuse is a serious offence and punishable with a fine of up to Dh2 million and imprisonment in the UAE.

Demand consistently growing

Trends show that the demand for VPNs in the Gulf has been consistently growing until 2018 when authorities started to block services.

Globally, VPN downloads saw a massive jump of 183 per cent from 277 million in 2020 to 784 million in 2021, Atlas said.

Singapore had the third-highest penetration rate at 49.14 per cent with 2.874 million downloads followed by Saudi Arabia at 36.65 per cent penetration rate and 12.76 million downloads.

Oman and Kuwait were positioned at fifth and sixth positions with 33.65 per cent and 29.63 per cent penetration rates and 1.718 million and 1.265 million downloads, respectively.

The other countries that rounded off in the top 10 include Pakistan (29.59% penetration rate), Kazakhstan (27.67%), Algeria (27.44%) and Bolivia (27%), Atlas said.


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