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Paper money extends our ability to count — even if we haven’t been to school.

Paper is a technology.

The cursive systems of signs we scribble on it are a technology.

And paper money is a technology: a literate one designed centuries ago to facilitate trade.

Nearly a billion adults are illiterate today.Most do not live near literate institutions. We judge them lazy or stupid because they don’t use calendars, and don’t remember simple numeracy practices.

But cash is a literate technology.

Literate institutions like banks, pawnbrokers [Continue Reading…]


Anna writes.

“I have not been to school. Not even for a single day.” Anna’s high and elegant cheekbones dance as she speaks.

“Why not?” I ask her.

“My father was very much against educating girls. None of my sisters went to school either. Only my brothers.”

With colleague Hawa Mnyasenga, I am conducting financial numeracy interviews in Tanzania’s villages. It quickly becomes clear [Continue Reading…]

Passbook page with graphic oral information management tools, Kampong Os, Cambodia.

Passbook page with graphic oral information management tools, Kampong Os, Cambodia.

On October 31st 2014, My Oral Village, Inc. published a paper entitled Oral Information Management Tools: Lighting the Path to Financial Inclusion. This paper seeks to change the way we go about achieving financial inclusion. Wherever innumeracy is common, it makes the case for integrating ‘oral information management’ (OIM) tools into financial services delivery, and provides examples of OIM tools developed by Brett Matthews of My Oral Village, Inc. in Cambodia, Bangladesh and the Solomon Islands.

Oral Information Management Tools punctures several myths [Continue Reading…]

On October 4th, visit the My Oral Village Booth at the Toronto International Micro Finance Conference!

Our work is closely aligned with the theme of this year’s conference: Microfinance for Social Justice. The key question at the Summit will be “can microfinance bring social justice? We say ‘yes’!

Good quality savings and fair, timely loans are decisive to human freedom, and it is the mission of My Oral Village to build numeracy and planning skills through microfinance intermediaries world-wide.

To find out more about the conference see www.microfinanceconference.ca.

TIMS Poster



On Saturday I presented the concept of My Oral Village at the Toronto International Microfinance Summit, and after the talk, was approached by many young people asking questions. They told me the MOVE concept is ‘cool’. But older people often react differently. They may be very interested for a week or so. But then the interest wears off. A typical comment: “I wish this was more about technology!”

My Oral Village, Inc. is dedicated to re-engineering [Continue Reading…]


Translating numerals into universally recognized values.

Why are there not finger-counting icons and/or tallies (see right) on every passbook owned by every illiterate client in microfinance?

Arrayed as a legend along the bottom or the side of the passbook, or printed on the back cover, this provides support to clients struggling with financial code, much as braille supports ATM keys in modern banks.

This small change could contribute usefully towards our shared goal of ‘access for all’.

I have presented this simple idea to many MFIs and financial cooperatives recently. For the most part, these organizations passionately want to connect more closely with illiterate clients. Some are using [Continue Reading…]