Whether it’s the gig economy or crypto commerce, technology is constantly transforming the way we live our lives. Over the last year, Rest of World set out to find these stories — stories of people behind the screens, apps, and interfaces of tech that are at the front and center of our daily lives. 

Our reporters worked with photographers from around the world who captured the realities and dreams of people whose lives revolve around, or have been affected by, tech. They photographed from the back of motorbikes and tuk-tuks, uncovered shady crypto schemes, and got rare access to libertarian islands funded by Silicon Valley VCs. Together, photographers for Rest of World made hundreds of images this year. 

These are just a few of our favorites.

Anita Pouchard Serra for Rest of World

In Argentina, cheap government-issued netbooks sparked a musical renaissance

In Buenos Aires, Anita Pouchard Serra photographed David Acosta, a 23-year-old music producer known as Glitcha. The Argentine government never suspected that providing Conectar Igualdad netbooks to students like Acosta would lead to a burgeoning music scene.

An esports revolution is sweeping through Brazil’s favelas

In the Rio de Janeiro favela of Parada de Lucas, photographer Leonardo Carrato met with teens building careers in esports. Gaming has become a promising path for young people seeking social mobility and digital inclusion in Brazil’s favelas, where 52% of the population only accesses the internet less than once a month.

Andrés Yépez for Rest of World

Tech for disabled people is booming around the world. So where’s the funding?

In northern Ecuador, photographer Andrés Yépez met with the founders of the Ecuadorian startup Talov, which focuses on developing assistive technology. Despite producing two successful apps, the men are struggling to attract funding.

Daniele Volpe for Rest of World

A libertarian ‘startup city’ in Honduras faces its biggest hurdle: the locals

Photographer Daniele Volpe gained rare access to a libertarian startup on the Honduran island of Roatán and spent time with local residents at odds with the development. Access to water has become a core component of the battle between the project’s developers and those just outside its borders.

Saumya Khandelwal for Rest of World

“Amazon Go Back”: Meet the Indian merchant waging war on Jeff Bezos

In Delhi, photographer Saumya Khandelwal watched as businessman Praveen Khandelwal set fire to an effigy of Jeff Bazos on a balcony. The 60-year-old leads a network of small businesses across India that see Amazon as a direct threat to their livelihood and are demanding Modi take a stronger stance against the e-commerce giant.

Saumya Khandelwal for Rest of World

For Indian women, rideshare apps are a lifeline

For another assignment in India, Khandelwal followed five women through Kolkata to understand how rideshare apps are changing their lives. Shankari Halder, 38, drives for a living and takes bookings through Uber. She’s able to make three times as much money as she made as a housemaid and cook, but says the job causes friction with her husband.

Muhammad Fadli for Rest of World

Hi, I’m Disaster Bot

Muhammad Fadli flew to Bali to meet with the director of PetaBencana, which produces crowdsourced maps of disasters from social media users, an important resource in a country prone to earthquakes, flooding, and volcanic activity.

Jacob Russell for Rest of World

The crypto dons of Beirut

In Beirut, Jacob Russell met with men making a killing in the underground cryptocurrency market. The country’s financial crisis has led to a spike in cryptocurrency as people struggle to find ways to stabilize their finances.

How social media became a deadly trap for a minority group in Pakistan

Photographer Taylor Glascock spent time with Mashal Naseem in Chicago for a story on the risks faced by Ahmadis, a religious minority from Pakistan. Naseem’s father was murdered while on trial for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan. Despite living in the U.S., she faces an onslaught of online abuse for demanding accountability for her father’s murder.

Juliana Tan for Rest of World

The pandemic didn’t kill Singapore’s UNESCO-listed food stalls. Delivery apps might

At Singapore’s Chinatown Complex, Juliana Tan met with the owners of Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap, a popular hawker stall that is feeling trapped by the local delivery platforms, which are providing access to customers while cannibalizing their business.

Gulshan Khan for Rest of World

South African students are selling school Wi-Fi passwords for lunch money

Photographer Gulshan Khan spent a day with residents of Duduza Township, near Johannesburg, where the struggle for affordable internet access has created an informal economy outside the gates of local schools. 

Tashiya de Mel for Rest of World

What it’s like being a woman tuk-tuk driver in Sri Lanka

As part of our Global Gig Workers project, photographer Tashiya de Mel rode through Colombo with Nangahami Premawathi, a 61-year-old mother of three, who works for ride-hailing services like PickMe and Uber.

Korean adoptees felt isolated and alone for decades. Then Facebook brought them together

In Seattle, Christopher Lee spent time with Sarah Gunn, a Korean adoptee, who found community and answers to her past through Facebook.

Jean Chung for Rest of World

What working from home looks like around the world

Photographer Jean Chung spent a day with Yeonho Yang and his family as they managed childcare and working from home. Yang and his wife shared a desk and had to work around each other’s schedules, but ultimately said they valued the time they get to spend at home with their child.

George Etheredge for Rest of World

The cleric has uploaded a new video

Nicole Tung visited mosques in Istanbul for our story on how Turkish clerics are gaining massive followings on YouTube. Thousands of miles away in New York, George Etheredge connected the story’s dots through a snow-filled portrait session with Sheikh Lokman, of the Osmanlı Nakşibendi Hakkani Dergahı sect in upstate New York.

Nicole Tung for Rest of World

Linh Pham for Rest of World

The fall of the King of Squirrels

Linh Pham flew across Vietnam to photograph Phan Huynh Anh Khoa, a former wildlife trafficker from Ho Chi Minh City, who built an online animal trading network before eventually being captured by authorities.

Cynthia Matonhodze for Rest of World

Betting big with Zimbabwe’s foreign currency traders

Cynthia Matonhodze traveled from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to Mutare, near the border with Mozambique to meet Wellington Mafuta. Mafuta is part of a new wave of foreign currency traders utilizing digital brokerages and trading apps like Pepperstone and OctaFX.