Starting Work on the Humanitarian Exchange Language Initiative

As UN OCHA writes in a recent blogpost, the work on building standards for sharing data among the groups involved in crisis response is starting.

The Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) initiative is a year-long effort with three major goals:

  • develop an initial set of simple standards for humanitarian data;
  • pilot those standards in three countries (Colombia, Kenya, and Yemen); and
  • set up a means for sustaining that work beyond 2014.

Data standards matter: they allow information to flow to different destinations (e.g. reports, databases, web sites) with less time wasted on manual retyping or copy/pasting; they make it easier to form a timely and accurate big picture of what’s happening during a crisis, with fewer cases of omission or double counting; and they allow the humanitarian community to share processes and software tools.

More detailed background information about HXL can be found in the document Developing humanitarian data standards: an introduction and plan for 2014.

We are discussing the standards work on a public mailing list,, and we invite everyone interested to join and participate. You can subscribe by sending an email message to, or by visiting the group’s main page at!forum/hxlproject (where you can find archives of past discussions). We will also post updates to this blog every month over 2014.

So if you have knowledge in the field of data science it would be great if you could spend a bit of your time on this project.

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