How And Why Does VPN Usage Differ By Country?
For a long time, it seemed like you couldn’t go online without being advised to get a VPN. As the world began to recognize just how many risks an online life posed, VPN usage became the most popular means of protection. It helped that VPNs could get you access to content from other countries, leading even those uninterested in cybersecurity to commit to yearlong subscriptions.
The hype around VPNs has died down somewhat, but their importance has not. The internet is an increasingly dangerous place and shady elements are developing new and improved ways to take advantage of the average user. As such, there are still many new VPN adopters in 2022.
Interestingly, VPN usage differs significantly by country. Fortunately, it is difficult to get exact usage stats, but we can look at the number of downloads of VPN apps.
There are a number of possible reasons for usage differences. Let’s take a look at some of the most striking examples.
US and Canada
VPN usage in North America is comparatively lower than other parts of the world. Indications are that VPN usage in Canada is not as prevalent as it is in the US, although neither country has high numbers. This is likely because of the freedom of the internet in these countries. Access to content is almost entirely unlimited by government or ISPs.
It also helps that streaming sites in these countries have bigger content libraries than most other countries. Americans and Canadians also have a fair level of trust in their governments. In Europe, where internet freedom is high, VPNs are also not as popular as they are elsewhere.
Nonetheless, using a VPN would be beneficial in protecting residents of these countries from cybercriminals as well as government tracking. Privacy is difficult to maintain in 2022, but it is possible with security tools. It is possible that people do not feel this way and therefore do not use these measures as they believe they won’t help.
Southeast Asia and the Middle East
Where is VPN usage highest? Countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East have particularly high levels of VPN usage. The country with the highest usage is Indonesia, with countries like Qatar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia close behind. This is not too surprising, as these countries also score low on internet freedom scales.
In some of these countries, people fear even the most straightforward internet activity being tracked by their governments. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are good examples of countries where citizens don’t seem to trust their government on privacy matters.
In a place like Indonesia, where government tracking is not the main fear, it may be the restricted access to content that drives VPN usage. Accessing content that criticizes the government in these countries can also be banned or risky. At the very least, it is perceived as risky. VPNs have therefore become essential tools to stay aware of what is going on without putting the person in danger.
VPN usage is also very high in Africa. With countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Rwanda among the very worst in the world for internet freedom, this is not so surprising. Residents need VPNs in order to safely access content that may be deemed threatening to the government or public morality without putting themselves in danger.
People in these countries use VPNs at all times while online, and they go some way towards providing access to a free internet.
South Africa is one interesting outlier. It has one of the highest rates of VPN usage in the world. However, it is also one of the 18 countries that have a completely ‘Free’ score for internet freedom. The fact that it has such a high level of internet freedom somehow does not correlate with the same level of trust in the internet scene in other countries. It is possible that South Africans use VPNs to access content libraries from the US.
Aside from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, South America has fairly high VPN usage, possibly for similar reasons.
VPN usage is not legal everywhere in the world. Certain countries which have some of the worst internet freedom scores ban VPNs entirely. They prohibit access to VPN websites and ban VPNs from app stores. Most of the names on the list are, unfortunately, unsurprising.
VPNs are banned in:
- North Korea
These bans do not make it completely impossible to download VPNs, but it is extremely difficult. In order to get to the more legitimate VPN websites, residents may have to use sites which use shadier means to get past the bans. Furthermore, anyone who downloaded a VPN while outside the country is able to use it within the country and is able to share its usage to help friends and family get their own VPNs.
VPN Usage Going Forward
While you may not see as much hype around VPNs anymore, that is not because they are no longer relevant. On the contrary, they are more necessary than ever, and there is a fairly high level of adoption around the world. Countries with greater internet freedom have lower adoption levels, but VPNs are important there nonetheless.
If you’re not using a VPN, consider subscribing as soon as possible. Even if you have access to all the content you could possibly need, a VPN will give you added peace of mind that you are not being hacked or surveilled.