The best and worst of times: The paradox of social media and Ethiopian politics
Keywords:Social Media, Politics, Ethiopia, Democracy
Ethiopia presents an intriguing case of dichotomies with regard to new communications technologies. It has among the lowest rates of Internet penetration in the world, while also showcasing an opposition and diaspora that has leveraged social media and the Internet to significant political effect. One of the poorest countries in the world, its government has nonetheless built up one of the more sophisticated Internet surveillance states, with demonstrated capabilities far beyond those of similarly resource-constrained states. With the opening to democratic politics in the last three years, and the critical elections in 2021 representing a potential turning point for this state, understanding the role of social media in Ethiopian politics is critical. This article describes the current state of new communications technologies in Ethiopia, examines technical capacity both from the perspective of population and government, and discusses the role that social media will play in the aftermath of the divisive 2021 elections.
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