New research from Techopedia reveals the countries where VPNs were searched for the most in 2023, with three African countries featuring – Ethiopia (at number two), Senegal (at number nine), and Uganda (at number 10).

Analysing Google Trends data from 2022/23, two of the three African nations – Ethiopia and Senegal – were the only new entries on the list with scores of 99/100 and 35/100.

Adding to this, Senegal’s 2023 purchasing demand for VPNs has reportedly increased by a massive 60 000%, and Ethiopia’s by 3 651%.

Key insights on the findings include:

* 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.

* Ethiopia was the highest new entry at number two with a VPN search score of 99 out of 100 due to the civil unrest that took place, with the government blocking access to social media in February 2023.

* African nations Senegal and Uganda feature in number nine and number 10, respectively, due to their government’s continued efforts to censor critical speech.

* Turkmenistan was number one across 2022-2023 – with a max search score of 100 for both years – even though VPNs are technically considered illegal there.

* Afghanistan had the largest YoY increase of 156%, due to the Taliban’s continued efforts to censor Afghani’s internet.

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.

Nick Francis, editor of Techopedia, comments: “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.

“It’ll be interesting to follow these search trends going forwards and see how it correlates with further developments in each country.”