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Top 10 Countries: Searches for VPNs Increased Average of 97% in 2023

February 2024 by Techopedia

New research from Techopedia reveals the countries where VPNs were searched for the most in 2023, and compared to 2022 data - with Turkmenistan coming out on top across both years. Analysing Google Trends data from 2022/23, the Central Asian country that’s notorious for its internet censorship scored a max 100 across both years - the only country to do so.

Key insights on the findings:
• Searches across the top 10 countries increased an average of 97% from 2022 - with not a single decrease showing that internet freedom is getting worse globally.
• Turkmenistan was #1 across 2022-2023 - with a max search score of 100 for both years - even though VPNs are technically considered illegal there.
• Ethiopia was the highest new entry at #2 with a search score of 99 due to the civil unrest that took place, with the government blocking access to social media in February 2023.
• Afghanistan had the largest YoY increase of 156%, due to the Taliban’s continued efforts to censor Afghani’s internet.
• Despite VPNs being restricted, blocked or illegal in five of the countries, internet users still searched for them.

The search and use of VPNs often indicates the need for citizens to bypass oppressive internet censorship imposed by their governments. To understand more behind the results and rises, Techopedia looked at the political and cultural events that occurred in each country across 2023 and how they affected online activity.

Here’s a table breakdown of the research:

Rank/Country 2022 Google Trends Score (/100) 2023 Google Trends Score (/100) YoY Search increase (%) Level of internet freedom (/100) VPN use status
1. Turkmenistan 100 (#1) 100 no change N/A Illegal
2. Ethiopia – 99 New 26 Legal
3. Iran 40 (#3) 77 93%+ 11 Restricted (legislation pending)
4. Myanmar 51 (#2) 65 27%+ 10 Restricted (legislation pending)
5. China 28 (#4) 54 93%+ 9 Restricted, blocked
6. Syria 25 (#6) 52 108%+ N/A Legal, intermittent blockages
7. Afghanistan 16 (#8) 41 156%+ N/A Legal
8. St Helena 25 (#7) 40 60%+ N/A Legal
9. Senegal – 35 New N/A Legal
10. Uganda 16 (#9) 33 106%+ 51 Legal

For additional context, the report also looks at the key insights of VPN users in general including VPN work vs. daily use, demographic data, and usage reasons. An infographic of this research (featured in the report) is open for use and can be accessed on this Google Drive.

Editor of Techopedia, Nick Francis, had this to comment on the research:
“Many of the countries featured come as no surprise considering their well-known restrictions towards online freedoms. The new entries and largest rises give an insightful look into how more current governments are quickly restricting internet access for their citizens as soon as civil unrest unfolds. It’s troubling, but not surprising.

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