Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX)

The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) project aims to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis. So, how do we plan on making that happen? We are working on three elements that will eventually combine into an integrated data platform.

  • The HDX Dataset Repository, where data providers can upload their raw data spreadsheets for others to find and use.
  • HDX Analytics, a refined database of high-value data that can be compared across countries and crises, with web-based tools for analysis and visualisation.
  • Standards to help share humanitarian data through the use of a consensus Humanitarian Exchange Language.

System principles

We are designing the HDX system with the following principles in mind:

  • Aggregation, not creation – HDX will aggregate data that already exists. We are not working on primary data collection or the creation of new indicators.

  • Progressive data enhancement – As data moves from the crowd-sourced dataset repository into the curated CHD database, we will take it through a quality review process to ensure that it is sourced, is trusted, and can be combined with data from other sources.

  • Open data – HDX will provide technical support for (a) sharing any data, and (b) allowing data providers to decide not to share some data for privacy, security or ethical reasons. Terms of use for data shared through the site will be available soon.

  • Open technologies – HDX will use open-source, open content, and open data as often as possible to reduce costs and in the spirit of transparency. We will use an open-source software called CKAN for the dataset repository. You can find all of our code on GitHub.



So, how is all of this going to help you do your job better? Right now, you probably spend too much time searching for data about a humanitarian crisis. When you eventually track down the data you need, you discover that a) it is locked in documents (situation reports, diagrams, maps), or b) it is stored in temporary Dropbox accounts that few people know about, or c) it is stored on someone’s laptop in an overhead baggage compartment somewhere over the Pacific.

Once you’ve finished making phone calls and sending emails to find the information, you realize that you often don’t know the original source, when and how it was collected, and whether you have permission to reuse it.

Phase one of HDX will address these challenges directly. We will create a place where you can find humanitarian data quickly and, as far as possible, where you can find the data’s original source, its collection methodology, and information about your rights to reuse it. In the future, we will keep building on this foundation to address the quality, comparability and timeliness of humanitarian data.

The HDX project is ambitious, but it presents an excellent opportunity to change the way humanitarians share, access and use data, with positive implications for those who need assistance. We want to ensure that users are at the center of our design process, so please join the conversation on our blog or volunteer your skills through our get involved page. You can also read more about the HDX team, our board and our amazing supporters.

Further Information

Project duration

January 2014 – December 2015


A project by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis.




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