Arab nations are governed by hereditary rulers who wield the majority of administrative, legislative, and judicial power. Civil rights of both citizens and noncitizens are severely restricted.
To overcome some of those limitations, residents search for tools that could help them regain their liberties. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are one of the primary tools people in Arab countries utilize to increase their freedom of expression and access restricted content.
According to the latest release of the VPN Adoption Index by Atlas VPN, Virtual Private Network downloads reached 353 million in 2022. Once again, Arab countries dominate the top of the table as the highest VPN adopters globally.
United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia take four out of the top five spots on the list, with Kuwait in ninth place. On average, VPNs penetrated 31% of the market in these five countries last year.
The leading country in terms of VPN adoption in 2022 was the United Arab Emirates(UAE), with a 43.18% penetration rate. Close to 4.27 million downloads originated from the country.
Stringent internet and freedom of speech restrictions are the primary cause behind the high virtual private network usage in the UAE.
The UAE’s two biggest ISPs prohibit any content that violates Islamic moral norms, with gambling sites, adult websites, and dating apps, including Tinder, as the primary focus.
VoIP services, such as WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, Snapchat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger, are banned and unavailable in the United Arab Emirates. This is one of the main reasons why expatriates turn to VPNs. On top of that, authorities restrict politically sensitive topics, particularly those that criticise the government.
Qatar reached second place in the rankings with a VPN penetration rate of 39.2% and 1.13 million downloads during the year. Qatar is another Gulf country with substantial internet restrictions, similar to those in the UAE. The fourth place goes to Saudi Arabia. People in Saudi Arabia downloaded VPN applications 9.42 million times, which resulted in a 27.06% VPN penetration rate in 2022.
The Saudi government is ruthless in its censorship of information, limiting access to a wide range of media, including newspapers, books, television, films, and all internet content.
Gaming and streaming spur VPN usage
Gamers in the Gulf employ VPNs to change their IP address so they would get matched with players in other regions and to avoid bandwidth throttling. Also, VPNs are necessary for streamers to prevent DDoS attacks.
In addition, the libraries of Netflix and other streaming platforms are highly limited in Arab countries. For example, in the US, Netflix has around 6,000 titles available, while in the UAE, citizens can see less than 1,000 movies and TV series.
In turn, those who want to enjoy some of the shows not available in the Gulf region turn to VPNs.