DataFirst, a resource unit at UCT, has been selected by the World Bank to exclusively house its entire collection of Investment Climate Survey data.
The database covers a broad spectrum of 52 emerging countries, including the South African investment climate survey that was conducted in 2004.
Professor David Kaplan (economics) was involved in the South African survey as a consultant for the World Bank, and arranged for the data to be housed at UCT.
The bank subsequently granted the rest of its surveys to the university.
The Investment Climate Survey is a standardised instrument developed by the World Bank to assess the business environment in each country.
It is based on detailed information gathered from company surveys and includes all aspects of the investment climate, such as regulatory policy, infrastructure and labour, as well as key constraints like corruption, crime and cost of capital.
Kaplan explains: "For the first time the database will allow users to draw comparisons between countries over a wide number of social and economic dimensions.
"We can now, for example, compute the costs of crime to business in South Africa and compare that to a wide range of other countries. We can also track changes within each country's investment climate and identify weak aspects that could be targeted by direct government policy."
UCT is the only academic institution in South Africa to house the World Bank investment climate data.
DataFirst's resource centre is a university-wide facility housing the most comprehensive archive of survey data in the country.
Matthew Welch, DataFirst director, explains: "The data is now available as a research resource to academics and postgraduate students.
"External users, such as potential investors and foreign researchers, are also welcome to approach us."
In addition to the investment climate surveys, DataFirst has a number of other data sources. These include datasets from social surveys conducted locally and in the rest of Africa, censuses (including all the South African censuses from 1970), and surveys of population and health, migration, income and expenditure, and labour.
Copyrighted reports such as the World Bank Investment Climate Survey can only be accessed at the DataFirst resource centre, while datasets of UCT-conducted surveys can be downloaded from the website.
Established in 2000, DataFirst serves as a one-stop facility providing access to survey datasets and their supporting documentation for researchers at the university.
"We are more than just an archive," says Welch.
"We also provide training to users on how to use the software and data so they can get most value out of our resources."
More information can be found on www.datafirst.uct.ac.za.
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