The Centre for Humanitarian Data is focused on increasing the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector. It is managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Centre’s services are available to humanitarian partners and OCHA staff in the field and at Headquarters free of charge.

The Centre is focused on four areas: 1) data services; 2) data literacy; 3) data policy; and 4) network engagement. (See Our Services for more details). Our vision is to create a future where all people involved in a humanitarian situation have access to the data they need, when and how they need it, to make responsible and informed decisions.

The Centre is a part of the Agenda for Humanity which is a roadmap for improving the way we work in the humanitarian sector.

Our Products

Although the Centre supports a range of activities, we directly manage two products: the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) and the Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL).

The goal of HDX is to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis. Launched in July 2014, HDX has a growing collection of datasets about crises around the world and has been accessed by users in over 200 countries and territories.

HXL is a data standard. We refer to it as a ‘simple standard for messy data’. The use of HXL is focused on spreadsheet formats such as CSV or Excel. HXL hashtags are added between the column headers and the data to allow software to process data more easily and create insights more quickly.

You can read more about HDX and HXL in this one pager. You can also take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions for HDX.

“HDX and the new Centre are a leading innovation in the trustworthy use of data for humanitarian outcomes. They are a tremendous example of putting the principles of trust, accountability and action into practice.”
-Bill Hoffman, World Economic Forum

Our Principles

The Centre adheres to the following principles:

Human-Centered: We use a human-centered design approach to our activities. We exist to help people use data more effectively to improve lives and reduce suffering. All user groups will be considered when designing solutions, products and services.

Open: The Centre is open to collaboration with a wide variety of partners, including through a shared work space in The Hague. Software and standards are open source with all code made available through GitHub. Data will be open to the extent that partners wish for it to be open and as long as it does not infringe on the privacy or security of individuals.

Networked: The Centre is not ‘the centre’ of anything but part of a network of data-focused partners. Entities with a comparative advantage in specific fields will be asked to lead aspects of the work rather than trying to do everything ourselves.

Agile: The Centre is run with a start-up mindset. We will adapt to demand and new innovations. Projects will be developed in an incremental and iterative manner. We are flexible in our approach to delivering on our mission and objectives.

Our Advisory Board

The Centre is supported by an independent Advisory Board that provides strategic and operational advice to OCHA management. Members serve on a voluntary, unpaid basis for 6-12 month terms. Below is more information about our current nine member Advisory Board.

Andrew Reiskind
Senior Vice President, Data Management, Data & Analytics, Mastercard


Bernard Kowatsch
Head of WFP Innovation Accelerator


Ed Happ
Executive Fellow, School of Information, University of Michigan


Jennifer Chan
Northwestern University, Affiliated Expert Faculty/Harvard Humanitarian Initiative


Kimberly Roberson
Chief of Section, Field Information and Coordination Support Section, UNHCR


Kirsten Gelsdorf
Director, Global Humanitarian Policy, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia


Oliver Lacey-Hall
Head of Office, OCHA Jakarta


Simone Ross
Co-founder and Chief Program Officer, Techonomy


Syed Raza
Senior Director, Data, Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) at the United Nations Foundation