UAE residents increase VPN downloads by 1.8 million in 2023

Virtual private network adoption rate in the Emirates among highest in the world

by

Waheed Abbas

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Published: Thu 18 Jan 2024, 1:17 PM

Last updated: Thu 18 Jan 2024, 11:10 PM

In 2023, UAE residents increased their downloads of virtual private network (VPN) apps by 1.83 million, reaching a total of 6.1 million, as reported in the latest update of the Global VPN Adoption Index by Atlas VPN.

This pushed the VPN adoption rate in the UAE to 61.7 per cent last year, the second highest in the world after Qatar’s 69.87 per cent. The adoption rate shows what percentage of the country's population downloaded VPN services in 2023.

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Globally, in 2022, the UAE had the highest adoption rate after Qatar.

The UAE recorded the highest VPN application downloads in 2023 in the past four years, surpassing the pandemic year’s downloads of 6.09 million in 2020. VPN downloads peaked in UAE during the pandemic year as residents were largely staying indoors due to travel and movement restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The usage of VPN in the UAE is not illegal if it's used as per the guidelines of the UAE government and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).

However, using VPNs for illegal means or to commit a crime is a serious offence under the UAE Decree Law No (34) of 2021 concerning combating rumours and cybercrimes.

Also, using a VPN by hiding the IP address to get access to websites/calling applications /gaming applications which are blocked by the UAE government is illegal.

Under Article 10 of the UAE Cyber Law, people misusing VPNs could face imprisonment and a fine between Dh500,000 to Dh2 million.

Atlas VPN ranked 86 countries in terms of VPN usage from 2020 to 2023. The VPN penetration rate was calculated by summing up VPN downloads by country and dividing them by the country’s population. The VPN download data was extracted from Google Play and Apple App Store using Sensor Tower and AppTweak services. Download data includes the 45 biggest VPN providers.

Nord Security has said that people in the UAE and other Gulf countries download VPNs to access restricted content.

It added that the usage of VPN is common among the Gulf residents to make audio-video calls through popular apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Discord, IMO as well as dating apps.

Top 10 countries in terms of highest VPN adoption in 2023

  • Qatar
  • UAE
  • Singapore
  • Oman
  • Netherlands
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait
  • Turkey
  • France
  • Australia

Top 10 countries in terms of least VPN adoption in 2023

  • South Africa
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Thailand
  • Peru
  • Tunisia
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Hungary

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