DataFirst is a research data service that is based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. This resource provides access to survey and administrative microdata from South Africa and other select African countries. Their resources include an Open Data Portal with over 400 studies and a citation catalog with over 3500 citations to search and browse.*

*This description is a paraphrased version of the description on the DataFirst website.

Available file formats

Stata, SPSS and ASCII. (This depends on the collection, source, and survey.)


This data source requires registration and login information to access the data, as well as a brief description for obtaining the data. It is otherwise open to the public (with some exceptions for certain datasets, depending on the organization that owns the data). The accessibility of the available datasets from this source is defined as follows:

  • Public use data files (open to the public but need to be logged in or have a login)
  • Licensed data files (need to log in and apply for approval of access)
  • Data enclave (need to apply for approval to access data at an onsite facility)
  • Data available from external repository (open to the public but may need a login, depending on the external source)


how to retrieve data by example


Suppose you wish to obtain survey data on living standards in South Africa during the 1990s.


  • Go to the DataFirst Open Data Portal and type living standards into the study description search field on the left of the screen. Once you hit Search and your results appear, go back to the left under the Filter by Data Access section and check the box that says Public use data files. This will ensure all results are accessible without need of approval.
  • Looking at the results, the first one says Project for Statistics on Living Standards and Development 1993 and corresponds to the country of South Africa. Click on this result and it will take you to the general information page for this survey.

Note: If there are many results to go through, you could also use the filtering options on the left to filter by country using South Africa and filter by year using 1990 to 1999 to get more narrow results. After this, you can also sort your results in ascending or descending order by country, year, title and popularity. You can do this by clicking on the desired sorting criteria directly above the list of results. For ascending order, click on the criteria once. For descending order, click twice.

  • Once you are on the general information page, there should be tabs under the overview section. Go to the tab labeled Get Microdata. Once here, you will be required to either register or log in if you have already registered.
  • Once registered and logged in, you will be taken back to the Get Microdata tab where you will need to fill out an Application for Access to a Public Use Dataset. This entails providing a short description of your intended use of the data and agreeing to the terms and conditions.
  • Once you submit the application, the data files should appear in the available file formats. For this specific dataset, the only available format is Stata. Download the appropriate zip file (i.e. merged data file or original data file, whichever is preferred).

You should now have access to survey data on living standards in South Africa in 1993. Links to access and download the accompanying codebooks and/or metadata should also be available on this page, under the documentation or study description tab.

Be sure to consult with the source website on how to properly cite your data. DataFirst does not have an official or preferred citation. For this scenario, the citation in APA format would look something like:

Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit - University of Cape Town. (1995). Project for Statistics on Living Standards and Development 1993. DataFirst Open Data Portal. Available from