“A Country in Order”: Technopolitics, Nation Building, and the Development of ICT in Ethiopia

Iginio Gagliardone

Abstract


Focusing on the case of two ambitious government-led ICT projects in Ethiopia, Woredanet and Schoolnet, this article offers a detailed analysis of how political and technical forces interact and negotiate in authoritarian, yet developmentally oriented regimes. The article builds on and extends the concept of “technopolitics,” which emerged in the history of technology tradition to account for the ability of competing actors to envision and enact political goals through the support of technical artifacts. The findings suggest that, even in a developing country that heavily relies on international assistance (such as Ethiopia), discrepancies between interpretations of the same artifacts emerging internationally and locally may lead to processes of substantial reshaping. Rather than employing ICTs according to donors’ demands of openness and democratization, the Ethiopian government has appropriated them to support its ambitious state- and nation-building process, while marginalizing alternative ICT uses promoted by other components of society, such as the private sector and Ethiopians in the diaspora.

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