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This article examines digital surveillance in Ethiopia under the repressive EPRDF regime. It considers the EPRDF’s responses to the Authoritarian Dilemma, in which repressive leaders must decide between extending digital access to their citizens and further tightening their own grip on power. The consequences of this choice are especially significant in the context of an economically and technologically developing nation like Ethiopia. Thus far, its government has largely chosen to use its control of digital networks to clamp down on freedoms in the face of opposition. However, its desire for robust growth has also prompted it to pursue higher rates of digital adoption. In an effort to both maintain control and promote development opportunities, the government is increasingly drawing on a range of digital surveillance techniques. I outline some of the monitoring and targeting techniques it deploys against both the general population and the critics it views as threats to its unilateral authority. Ultimately, I argue that the intensification of digital surveillance is a reckless approach to addressing the Authoritarian Dilemma. The detrimental impacts of state surveillance cannot help but also chill the possibilities of digital usage and adoption and forestall the full potential of national development.
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