A personal challenge

You are the proctors

Econometrics and the STATA stranglehold

As a student of economics, I was introduced to econometrics - a cross between economics and statistics. We were taught what linear regressions were, and how to estimate the coefficients using statistical software, STATA. I was introduced to it for the first time in 2012, during my Econometrics - I course. Later, it became the primary tool which I used to do econometric analysis. Through my years of study at both the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and National University of Singapore, STATA remained the go to tool. Did I mention that it’s insanely expensive? A quick look at their purchase page shows that even their student pricing starts at nearly USD 100 dollars a year, and goes up to USD 375. If you want get a perpetual license, that’d cost up to USD 795. However, you’re forever stuck with the same version. So yeah, it’s expensive. Fortunately, both in IIT-M and NUS, I didn’t have to purchase it because of university subscriptions. (Of course, Universities forked out a large sum of money to purchase it).

New Job, New Beginning

So when I was being interviewed for the position of Economist at CivicDataLab (CDL), I used STATA for the data analysis. While CDL works with Free and Open Source (FOSS) tools, they were okay with me using a familiar tool for the analysis 1. I pledged at the time to pick up FOSS tools for analysis. It’s been 8 months, and I haven’t spent enough time picking something up.

R or Python

I don’t know enough about both to comment authoritatively. Friends who have mastered both suggested that I start learning Python first, as it’s a general purpose language with multiple uses, and then go to R because it’s more powerful for statistical analysis. Over the last 8 months, I started learning Python several times but didn’t go more than 3 days with the same enthusiasm. My work also doesn’t require me to use Python for now, although I do get intense FOMO because most of my colleagues do know either R or Python.

A Personal Challenge. You are the proctors.

So that’s why I’m setting up this personal, public challenge. Starting sometime next month (after I figure out the logistics), I’ll start learning python during weekends, and document it here on the blog, publicly. Why would it be interesting it for you the reader? Well, the plan is to document it in such a way that they are useful for anyone to learn python. Here’s the tentative plan.

  1. Continue with personal blog 5 times a week (Monday to Friday)
  2. Learn Python on the weekends
  3. One blog during the weekend featuring what I learnt, written in a way that’d help others learn

I hope this effort succeeds.


  1. You might be wondering if I forked out hundreds of dollars for a tool that’s barely used outside of academia. Well, the answer is related to a certain Mr. Jack Sparrow. ↩︎

Arun Sudarsan
Arun Sudarsan
Economist and Policy Researcher

Arun is an Economist, passionate about Open Data and its potential to increase state transparency and accountability. Loves teaching. Previously worked at NITI Aayog. To subscribe to this blog’s mailing list, please enter your details here. Check your spam folder if you are missing updates. Thanks for subscribing!

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