Learning about village banking, rural Cambodia. Savings follow trust. In the oral village, trust follows voice, not text.

Today, what we know is what we can google. But, at the fringes of our ‘global village’ nearly 1 billion adults — mostly women — cannot read or write.

What would it be like to live in a world where what we know is bounded by what we can remember?

Living in an Oral World
An ‘oral’ village is one where most people can’t read or write. Orality has grave and direct financial consequences. For example, it is much harder — and riskier — to plan a business or save effectively. See village finance.

But oral villagers know language – the most complex and far-reaching technology ever invented – very well. Oral culture trains the memory: poor people often speak several languages, and can learn them with remarkable speed.

We can use these cultural gifts to help poor people secure a firmer footing in the modern economy.  See oral culture.

Building Bridges Out of Poverty

“Deposit” icon for passbook, Cambodia ‘oral tools’ focus group.

My Oral Village aims to help in two vital areas: access to a safe place to save and improved numeracy. In spite of incredible constraints, oral villagers save aggressively. But they do not understand the presentation of savings passbooks, or transaction receipts. As a result, they may borrow from a bank or microfinance institution, but they are much less likely to save with it.

My Oral Village is working with partners in the developing world to translate banking codes into clear communication, so that poor people can understand their transactions and their balances.

Our designs and solutions are based on ‘oral information management’ (OIM). This approach draws on modern digital technologies as well as the best practices of pre-literate era information storage, retrieval and manipulation. See OIM Solutions.


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