Page 75 - UCT Research Report 2011

Basic HTML Version

gather dust in state vaults and libraries. It also ensures
that researchers have access to the raw data, instead of
basing policies or proposals on reports that have already
been packaged or interpreted with a specific goal in mind.
“We assist in repurposing the data,” summarises Woolfrey.
But even a cursory search through the archives quickly
makes it clear that it’s not only South African data that is
to be found in the DataFirst trove. It also holds surveys
from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania,
among other African nations.
And it’s not just a storage facility. In an initiative with the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,
employees of DataFirst have, over the past years, been
training national statistics offices across Africa in the use
of its open access, survey-sharing software developed
by the World Bank, building capacity even in low-
resource conditions.
The unit also plays a vital role in making South African
data more usable. Researchers in its Data Quality Project,
funded by the Mellon Foundation, are working with local data
producers to improve the quality of national datasets, and their
published works assist with the appropriate usage of the data.
South African data held by DataFirst includes that coming
from SALDRU’s National Income Dynamics Study, or NIDS.
The country’s first national panel (or longitudinal) study, this
survey – commissioned by the Office of the President – aims
to track income, consumption, and expenditure of some
7 300 households (or about 28 300 individuals) over time,
starting in 2008. Surveys, or waves, are conducted every
second year, and the third wave is scheduled for 2012.
NIDS also casts its net wider, tracking features such as
poverty and well-being, household structure, fertility,
and mortality, as well as vulnerability and social capital.
The study is, for all intents and purposes, a log of
social mobility, explains SALDRU Director, Professor
Murray Leibbrandt, who also holds the DST/NRF
SARChI Chair in Poverty and Inequality Research.
One of the challenges of the survey – and what
occupies the NIDS office for much of the time between
surveys – is keeping track of the same people; because
they are, in a very literal sense, mobile.
“It’s how people survive in this country,” says Professor
Leibbrandt. “They move closer to labour markets, closer
to schools. And there is no other survey in the country
that tracks that movement, which is a crucial part of our
While it’s still too early to draw too many conclusions, the
insights gleaned from this one-of-a-kind survey into the
lives of South Africans could shape policy for decades
to come.
This is how the faculty likes it. Relevance and social
responsiveness are helping to invigorate the culture of
research in the faculty and position it to make a significant
contribution to the African continent in the years ahead.
Professor Ross says: Watch this space.
Participants of the 13th Annual SALDRU Summer Training Programme in Social Science Research using Survey Data.