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Greenleaf Book Group
Service Provider
Strong Connections
Rosa Wang, author
Rosa Wang’s remarkable book takes readers to the 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, this book 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. With powerful stories, Wang brings you to the front lines of the revolution—to join meetings with small-holder farmers in raucous town halls in remote parts of Tanzania, and to sit on dirt floors alongside non-literate women in rural India. The book chronicles the exponential trajectory of the mobile phone through the arc of the author’s own journey, an Asian-American woman from Mississippi navigating male-dominated environments and cultures, while changing the digital world without a background in technology. Readers will learn of the challenges that come with life on less than two dollars a day, and in that world, the transformative power of digital technologies: to give identity, improve finances, and to bring some degree of empowerment. Along the way, the author introduces memorable individuals and guides them on their journey across the digital divide to join the mobile generation. These people, poor in monetary resources and literacy, are rich in social connections, warmth, and wisdom. Their day-to-day lives seem implausibly hard, and their resilience humbles at every turn. This book is about them. At its heart, this is their story.
Reviews
A globe-trotting memoir of tech innovation and philanthropic zeal, Strong Connections encourages the next generation of activist entrepreneurs to close the digital divide for marginalized women around the world. Wang’s absorbing debut also offers an exemplary model for midlife reinvention while functioning as a guide for pivoting with purpose. After a career in investment banking, Wang became an “accidental technologist,” with a mission to use digital tools to help women in extreme poverty establish financial independence. Her undertaking acknowledges systemic inequities (including in education and marital autonomy) while providing these women the fundamentals of self-determination, starting with helping them to establish their own bank accounts.

Strong Connections unfolds as Wang’s journey of discovery, from the “light-bulb moment” in a game preserve when a Maasai man pulled a cell phone from his traditional clothing, to becoming the global director of digital financial services for Opportunity International, a Christian ecumenical nonprofit. She details trips to Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania, as well as several rural states in India, during a period when mobile phone usage had reached even far off-the-grid rural communities. How could global connectivity be tapped to help women living with both economic hardship and gender discrimination? Wang’s brand of advocacy is clear-eyed and action-oriented, chipping away at entrenched, exclusionary systems with financial solutions that address both individual needs and the greater good.

Tech and business readers will gain insights into client-based principles of problem-solving, and readers looking for a meaningful career change will find inspiration in Wang’s challenging and rewarding shift to microfinance. Her descriptions of growing up in Meridian, Mississippi, as the child of Taiwanese immigrants could be the basis of an intriguing follow-up memoir, which could further illuminate Wang’s paradoxical sensibility, equal parts tough resolve and active kindness. Strong Connections adds the warmth of humanity to the cold calculations of technology, and champions the intrinsic value of women helping other women with equanimity, compassion and respect.

Takeaway: Both an inspiring personal journey and history of financial innovation and bolstering the autonomy of women around the world.

Great for fans of: Mary Ellen Iskenderian’s There’s Nothing Micro About a Billion Women, Alana Karen’s The Adventures of Women in Tech, and Malene Rix’s Negotiating with Yourself.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B

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