Roger Thurow,
author of Enough and First 1000 Days

Venture to the Last Frontier of the Mobile Phone Revolution

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Imagine what your life would be like if you never had the chance to go to school, had never learned to read. You wouldn’t own books or a computer. You would see people walking around – people with more education, more resources – staring at glowing devices they call ‘smart’ and realize that they live in a world closed to you.

Now imagine that you lived in a place with no electricity and no running water. The ability to complete household chores, like washing up, would depend on the rising and setting of the sun, and a drink to quench your thirst could lead to diarrhoea or fever. Words like Wi-Fi and internet would be outside your vocabulary. And imagine that all your meagre savings were kept as a few pieces of metal that you wore on your body. Think of your anguish if you had to sell a piece to feed your children or pay their school fees.

Despite progress in recent decades, what I’ve described is the daily reality of hundreds of millions of the global poor in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

For the past 17 years, I have been drawn to these places and led teams trying to bring solutions to these complex problems. As implausible as it may seem, I went there not to install solar panels or work on childhood nutrition, but to introduce state-of-the-art technologies, to further the adoption of the mobile cell phone.

In my book, Strong Connections: Stories of Resilience from the Far Reaches of the Mobile Phone Revolution I take readers to this last frontier of the mobile/digital revolution.

While much has been written about breakthrough technologies and early adopters who live where roads are good and smart phones are affordable, Unpaved explores the largely undocumented journey of how digital technologies are entering the lives of those in extreme poverty — people, often women, often illiterate — who live without electricity or running water.

– Rosa Wang


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