Global Trade and Economics - Manufacturing Medical Instruments
Students should gain familiarity with the following elements of business information literacy and specific information resources.
- The kinds of economic information that are freely available on the Internet compared to those paid for by the library.
- Ethical use of licensed information and alternative information sources post-graduation.
- How to evaluate an information source's methodologies, authority, and bias.
- A source for international demographic and economic data.
- A source for reports and analysis of economic conditions in various nations.
- A source for information on regulatory environments or the ease of doing business.
You work for a multinational manufacturer of medical instruments and have been tasked with identifying a location to construct a new factory. You first task is to narrow your search to one or two nations with healthy economies and welcoming business environments.
The librarian should initiate a discussion where students brainstorm the kinds of information that would be helpful in addressing this scenario. Such a discussion will likely result in factors like economic growth and stability, political stability, trade relations, regulatory environments, a skilled workforce, etc. The librarian can lead the students in identifying the kinds of data that would indicate such factors, such as GDP for an indicator of economic growth and stability.
Economic, demographic, and other indicators can be found in both free and fee-based sources. The librarian can describe the differences in the information available and the fact that many sources provide some information freely but charge for full data sets. When new resources are introduced it should be made clear which are freely available and which will no longer be accessible to students after graduation.
It should be emphasized that the librarian is not teaching students how to best address the scenario, but how to use information sources that would be useful in addressing such a scenario. Assumptions and shortcuts may be necessary in order to more efficiently explore the resources, but students must understand that they would likely be inappropriate in an actual analysis.
Students may voice a need to obtain both data and analysis or commentary. The librarian can first demonstrate a source for raw data, such as the World Bank's World Development Indicators database, the freely available data at the UNdata website (http://data.un.org/), or the globalEDGE site hosted by Michigan State University (http://globaledge.msu.edu/). Students can be given several minutes to explore the resource on their own, with the objective of identifying nations that exhibit desirable characteristics, such as a stable economy or an educated workforce. One or two students should be invited to share their selections and their reasoning with the group.
To better inform their own analysis students should consider work already published by others. In-depth reports and profiles of countries that examine a nation's economy, politics, and business climate are a good place to start. There are a number of publishers of such content. The librarian can list several and describe the differences in the kinds of topics they cover, their methodologies, and other relative strengths and weaknesses. Publishers of general reports, like the Economist Intelligence Unit, can be distinguished from publishers of more narrow reports, like the PRS Group's Political Risk Yearbook. Such reports can be obtained direct from publishers, but they are also aggregated in databases like EBSCO's Business Source Premier and LexisNexis Academic. The U.S. Commercial Service Market Research Library includes the Department of Commerce's popular and freely available Country Commercial Guides (http://www.buyusainfo.net/adsearch.cfm?search_type=int&loadnav=no).
The librarian may mention several of these sources but should select one for demonstration. Students can be given several minutes to further explore it on their own, after which one or two can share the information they have found and believe to be relevant to the case.
Students will likely have raised the need to identify nations with attractive business environments. The librarian can demonstrate a free resource that assesses and ranks nations' regulatory environments or economic freedom. Possibilities include the World Bank's Doing Business website (http://www.doingbusiness.org/), The Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World project (http://www.freetheworld.com/), or The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom (http://www.heritage.org/index/). This provides an opportunity to discuss methodologies and potential biases in sources like think tanks. The librarian can also highlight the differences in a nation's ranking depending on each source's methods.
Students should be given time to explore the resource, after which volunteers can share their findings with the group.
This case allows students to explore sources that use differing methodologies, with varying levels of authority and potential bias. The librarian should review these issues and other aspects of information literacy that were discussed during the session. Students will likely have mentioned information needs beyond what has been addressed. Providing them with a handout that outlines additional resources can alleviate pressure to try and squeeze too much information into the session.
Originally Submitted: March 2, 2009
- A copy of the handout created to accompany this case as conducted at Brigham Young University in February 2009 can be downloaded here.