OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data and the Humanitarian Data Exchange

8 Feb 2019 01:00h

Event report

The session was organised by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and moderated by Mr Javier Teran (OCHA). He opened the session by showing a short video about practical applications of the work undertaken by the OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data. He explained that the mission of the organisation is to increase the use and impact of humanitarian data. The Centre is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and opened about a year ago.

The Centre operates in four different areas. It provides data services by relying on the data of and sharing the data with approximately 200 organisations, which include about 50 000 users, 1 100 data sources and 8 300 datasets. Teran explained that the collected data pertained to the context of the areas where help is needed, to the people affected and their needs, as well as to the humanitarian response. Additionally, the Centre focuses on data policy, data literacy and network engagement.

Mr Steward Campbell (OCHA) spoke about HXL, the Centre’s Humanitarian Exchange Language. He explained that HXL is a simple way of making humanitarian data easier to classify and understand by introducing hashtags. Additionally, the team of the OCHA Centre has developed an HXL workflow tool which has a tag assist option, data checks and quick charts in order to improve the usability by the fieldworkers. [link] The data can also be easily visualised with the help of the available tools and combine different datasets which it then automatically updates. This system has already been adopted by certain international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Mr CJ Hendricks (OCHA) spoke about the elaboration of data policy guidelines. Hendricks said that through the elaboration of these guidelines, the organisation is trying to enhance the capacity for responsible data exchange in the humanitarian sector, develop institutional data sharing agreements between OCHA and partners and work with partners to create a trust framework.

He further noted that OCHA was trying to obtain a better understanding of the kind of data they collect and of their sensitive nature. This element is very important in order to know what kind of information can be shared and what type of data must be protected. In light of these considerations, the recently published OCHA Data Responsibility Guidelines offer principles, practices, processes and tools for the safe use of data.

Additionally, Hendricks mentioned the ECHO-supported Data Responsibility Project which aims to enhance capacity for responsible data exchange in the humanitarian sector by developing tech approaches for the safe sharing of sensitive data, produce joint guidance notes on managing sensitive data (8 guides will be published) and convene events and adopt agreements on data responsibility in the sector.