DataFirst is an essential open data infrastructure to enable researchers to discover and download disaggregated data collected by African governments and research institutions. DataFirst distributes data openly from an online repository, and supports data users via an online helpdesk. The DataFirst team undertakes research on the quality and usability of national data, and trains African data scientists. As Africa’s only internationally-certified data repository, DataFirst provides African data producers with a trusted venue through which they can share their data.
By opening access to socio-economic data from African countries, DataFirst strengthens African open data ecosystems for data-directed policymaking to reduce poverty and inequality.
The potential of data capacity-building
Academics need reliable data to produce research that can build a poverty and inequality knowledge base on African countries. DataFirst provides quality-checked socioeconomic data for project partners and the wider research community. DataFirst also builds data science capacities at project partner institutions, by training data scientists in “the four A’s" of data: Data architecture, data acquisition, data archiving, and data analysis”. Such training is vital because a shortage of data science skills currently limits data access and use and prevents the production of high-quality socio-economic research in African countries.
Beneficiaries of data capacity building
All stakeholders benefit from access to useful and usable data. The main beneficiaries of DataFirst’s involvement in ACEIR are the Centre’s researchers, as well as the wider academic community who have access to research-ready data and data support for studies on poverty and inequality. Junior researchers and students also benefit from ease of access to real-life data for training in quantitative analysis. Once data findings have been written up in the literature and widely debated, government policymakers can benefit indirectly through being informed on the policy direction they could take.
Links to the SDGs
Ending poverty (SDG 1) and reducing inequality (SDG 10) are two of the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 SDG Agenda makes it clear that attaining these, and monitoring progress towards their achievement will require access to reliable, disaggregated country data. The Agenda also recommends the building of data capacities, particularly in African countries, to ensure data is at hand for SDG planning and monitoring. DataFirst’s work to widen access to poverty and inequality data and train data scientists in partner countries responds directly to the data needs of the SDGs.
The benefits of DataFirst participating in ACEIR
Participating in the work of the ACEIR nodes enables DataFirst to contribute to an important cross-country research agenda and strengthen policy data ecosystems in countries participating in the Centre’s work. DataFirst continues to be relevant through providing infrastructure and skills to ensure a data-rich research–policy environment in South Africa and other African countries.
Established in 2018, ACEIR is one of the 13 centres of excellence of the African Research Universities Alliance.