Unlocking Data Expertise: SA-TIED's Stata Training Initiative

The SA-TIED programme, in collaboration with the National Treasury, recently wrapped up an intermediate Stata training course. Held from 29–31 August 2023, this training was exclusively tailored for SA-TIED programme partners, a group that included professionals from the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the National Treasury. The primary goal of this initiative was to equip these professionals with advanced skills in data management, manipulation, and analysis using Stata software. The training programme brought together professionals from diverse roles, who each contribute to the landscape of South Africa’s economic policy formulation. The training was conducted by Bruce McDougall, a data developer at UNU-WIDER and a seasoned expert in Stata, who oversaw the capacity-building initiative.

A key highlight of this training was its hands-on, data-centric approach. Participants had the opportunity to work with a diverse range of datasets, each meticulously designed to impart transferable skills vital to their roles. These datasets covered an array of topics, spanning tax data and COVID-19 data to time series data, survey data, and even creatively crafted examples intended to illustrate critical points.

“I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to take part in the Stata course; it was an outstanding learning experience. Some of us had not taken a Stata course before, and having to do an intermediate course was a bit challenging. But the materials shared assisted with some foundation. Bruce is a great instructor and deserves special praise for his excellent instruction.” – Sabathile Mazibuko, National Treasury

While the course targeted an intermediate level of proficiency, participants were expected to possess a foundational understanding of data-management principles, ideally using Stata. This included familiarity with tasks such as working with do files, opening and saving data, navigating file structures, and grasping concepts related to variables and variable labels. Encouraging honest self-assessment ensured that the training content aligned with participants’ needs.

“The intermediate Stata course surpassed my initial expectations. Its content was thoughtfully organized to cater to both beginners and those seeking more advanced knowledge. The instructor was consistently accessible and helpful.” – Nhlakanipho Mkhize, National Treasury

The iStata training was structured into three comprehensive days, each with its unique focus. The first day included an introduction to Stata’s unique features compared to other software tools. Key topics included creating and loading data, labeling variables, and values, encoding data for computational efficiency, and automating data cleaning processes using loops.

Day two delved deeper into data manipulation using Stata functions. Participants honed their skills in string manipulation, date handling, and combining datafiles using append and merge techniques. The final day included a blend of data visualization and analysis. Participants had the chance to apply their newfound skills in a collaborative environment. In the latter half of the day, participants formed groups to work on mock research projects.

“One of the things I appreciated most about the course was the hands-on approach. We were given ample opportunities to apply what we learned through practical exercises and real-world datasets. This not only helped solidify my understanding but also gave me the confidence to tackle my own data analysis projects. The course also provided a wealth of resources, including course materials and reference guides. The facilitator was always responsive to questions and genuinely invested in our learning journey. By the end of the course, I felt well-equipped to handle a wide range of data analysis tasks using Stata. I was particularly impressed with the time spent on understanding the importance of data validation and management which are key to analysing and visualising one’s data.” – Motshidisi Mokoena, National Treasury

“I found the Stata training to be highly effective in enhancing my skills and understanding of the software. The course provided valuable examples and offered practical insights for its application in my daily work tasks. Furthermore, the training underscored the remarkable advantages and capabilities of Stata as a software tool, particularly its proficiency in managing and analysing large datasets.” – Wininle Ngobeni, South African Revenue Services

The successful conclusion of the Stata training course highlights SA-TIED’s commitment to capacity development.