In collaboration with a management engineering team from the University of Waterloo, My Oral Village has completed a financial numeracy app designed for use by savings groups. The first version, based on field research in Tanzania, is ideally adapted for use in East Africa, but can be edited for other contexts. Built to run on the Aakash tablet, an electronic device that costs about $40 US, it can also run on other tablets and smartphones.
Recent research by My Oral Village, including Tanzania, Cambodia and Bangladesh, has found that oral adults face a somewhat similar cluster of numeracy constraints. A key bottleneck to learning financial numeracy is a widespread inability to decode place value, which makes it impossible to decode written numeral strings greater than 3 or 4 digits.
There is a widespread but erroneous assumption that illiterate adults can’t perform arithmetic operations like subtraction and multiplication. But in many countries, including Tanzania, a bigger constraint to digital financial inclusion (as well as to its more traditional, paper-based cousin) is low currency value, combined with exclusive reliance on written arithmetic notation. This leaves oral adults — including nearly half of the country’s adult women, struggling with decisions about indecipherable 5- and 6-digit numeral strings every time they must make a financial decision.
My Oral Village would like to thank the team at the University of Waterloo (Merisa Lee, Wendy D’Souza, Usama Ahmed and Kamilla Kathigesu) for their enthusiastic work. We would also like to thank Mark Hancock for his skilled guidance in human-computer interaction, and Ada Hurst for her facilitation. We are proud that the team won a ‘People’s Choice Award’ for their final product. A video of their work can be found here.