The Humanitarian Exchange Language Initiative

Organisation: United Nations OCHA

Partners: UNHCR, Nethope, UN agencies and other NGOs

Location: New York, Geneva, field locations

Type of grant: Core – development

Status: Completed

Summary: UN OCHA aims to make it easier for responders to share critical operational data during humanitarian crises. The Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) initiative has two components: community agreement on data standards, and a technical infrastructure for automating simple peer-to-peer data exchange.

Challenge(s) addressed:

• Current data for planning and decision support is hard to find during a crisis.

• Data becomes fragmented and isolated in individual partners’ systems.

• Prior attempts that focused on building centralised databases or standardised forms have had limited success.

Innovation Factor:

This is primarily a process innovation for relief coordination and support services, involving a new, decentralised, consensus-based approach for collecting and sharing data across a network of humanitarian partners.

Innovation Phases Description:

• Form a working group to lead the standards effort, with broader outreach to all members of the humanitarian community through mailing lists and other collaboration channels.

• Deploy a technical team to prototype and implement the agreed standards and technical infrastructure in up to two small-scale field pilots.

• Coordinate these groups (working group, technical team and broader community) as they work iteratively towards a consensus version 1.0 release of the HXL standards and recommendations.

Key Deliverables / Impact:

• Make better data available to support crisis-response planning and action.

• Improve efficiency by reducing the manual work of collecting crisis data.

• Allow each organisation to remain a custodian of its own data.

• Build a long-lasting open data ecosystem that bridges the disaster-management and development cycles.

• Open up humanitarian data to a wider group of actors, tapping into the potential of the crowd to support humanitarian response.


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