The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Centre for Humanitarian Data aims to increase the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector. Our vision is to create a future where all people involved in a humanitarian response have access to the data they need, when and how they need it, to make responsible and informed decisions.The Centre focuses on four areas: data services, data responsibility, data literacy, and predictive analytics. The data services workstream focuses the management of the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) platform, the development and use of the Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) data standard, and support to the International Aid Transparency Initiative. The data responsibility worksteam focuses on the development and adoption of data responsibility guidelines and different techniques for the secure management of data, both within OCHA and the broader humanitarian system. The data literacy workstream focuses on improving the data skills of technical and non-technical humanitarians through the delivery of training programmes and development of capacity-building material. The predictive analytics workstream focuses on model development, including threshold and trigger design, and quality assurance of partner models through validation and a peer review process. 

Data Fellows Programme

The Centre’s Data Fellows Programme began in 2018 and supports all four workstreams. This high-profile initiative is designed to expose the Centre team and partners to new areas of data-related expertise that can impact humanitarian response and advance the goals of the Centre. The structure of the programme provides Fellows with exposure to different parts of the humanitarian system while allowing them to focus time and energy on an individual project that addresses a challenge related to the use and impact of data in the sector. 

The Centre is hosting its third class of Data Fellows in June and July 2020. The 2020 Fellows will focus on three areas: Data Storytelling (Education), Predictive Analytics, and Statistics (Mosaic Effect). Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the 2020 Fellowship programme is being conducted remotely, with Fellows working from home under the direction of the Coordinator for the Data Fellows Programme.


Data Storytelling (Education): As more data is collected and shared in the humanitarian sector, a challenge has emerged in relation to how the insights from data translate into concrete action at a global, regional, and local level. One approach to addressing this challenge is through data storytelling: translating insights into action through visual and narrative storytelling tactics. Some of the most popular and engaging content produced by the Centre has been visualisations such as the data stories on displacement in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The Data Storytelling Fellow will adapt and apply similar methods to the complex topic of education in contexts of forced displacement.


Predictive Analytics: The application of predictive analytics in humanitarian response is generating a growing interest among decision makers, donors and responders. Partners are increasingly using predictive models to trigger anticipatory action (pre-arranged finance and pre-agreed plans) to mitigate the impact of a full-blown humanitarian crisis. However, humanitarian organisations have included predictive models in the decision making process in different ways. The Predictive Analytics Fellow will design a project to take stock of how and why organisations have adopted different approaches for incorporating the use of predictive models into anticipatory action frameworks with the goal of improving how OCHA establishes its own frameworks.  


Statistics (Mosaic Effect): Humanitarian data can include sensitive personal, community or demographic information about affected people and aid workers. This includes sensitive ‘group data’, which may contain aggregate information that, if disclosed or accessed without proper authorization, could lead to reidentification of vulnerable individuals or groups. However, this data is more challenging to identify and de-risk without deeper analysis. There is a need to better understand the risk of the mosaic effect, which can occur when multiple, seemingly innocuous datasets are combined to reveal sensitive information. The Statistics (Mosaic Effect) Fellow will assess the likelihood and drivers of the mosaic effect within the humanitarian data ecosystem by assessing the data on the Humanitarian Data Exchange platform and at the response level for different environments.



Each Fellow is responsible for designing a project based on a problem area identified by the Centre. Fellows will conduct desk and user research and develop at least one solution related to their focus area. The Fellows will communicate publicly about their work and produce a final report outlining the key insights and recommendations for taking the work forward. 



If you have questions about the Data Fellows Programme, send an email to