Humanitarian relief projects involve massive undertakings, and often organizations employ hundreds or even thousands of aid workers to get the job done. It’s no surprise then that relief efforts require huge amounts of logistic planning and coordination.

This can be difficult to achieve accurately and quickly as communication infrastructure may be downed or poorly developed to begin with.

Further, it is difficult to track the individual efforts of aid workers across large developing, or vastly affected regions. As a result, relief may be slow, disorganized, and ineffective. In order to deliver aid more quickly and efficiently, the UN has teamed up with San Francisco based tech company Frog to develop the Humanitarian Data Exchange, or HDX for short.

The goal of the project is to streamline humanitarian data. In the past, relief workers compiled thousands of documents and data points in a variety of formats. The HDX standardizes the methods in which data is entered and collected, thus making finding specific data points easier with less crucial time wasted.

The HDX contains numerous data points, most complied by aid workers on the ground. The network can be accessed from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. Users then search for a specific dataset using a basic search engine.

The data includes region-specific populations, available medical services and their inventories, national poverty indexes, the number of homeless in the area, and hundreds of others.

The UN first implemented the HDX in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic. Currently, aid workers coordinating earthquake relief efforts are most actively using the HDX in Nepal.

The HDX has currently 76 different datasets for Nepal; many of these include maps and topographical information, as remote Nepalese regions are difficult to traverse due to limited infrastructure.

Nepal is not the only country benefitting from more efficient aid; the HDX lists data in 244 locations. Data is available to the public as well, and can be found at their website.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes 1, Forbes 2, RW Labs
Photo: Forbes

UN introduces 'Humanitarian Data Exchange' Platform
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, has developed an open digital platform for data sharing, called the Humanitarian Data Exchange, or HDX. In collaboration with Frog Design, the new system combines state of the art data collection with data dispersal to provide current data access to crisis zones.

In rapid response to any humanitarian crisis, whether it is violence or a natural disaster, it is imperative to have instant availability to any relevant data sets. Frog Design created the technology with the intention of universal usage. Optimal viewing capabilities and premium user interface technology are also key components for rapid mass data absorption. Everyone from ordinary public citizens to data scientists to relief workers in the field are able to gather and analyze the HDX’s information.

The HDX provides easy access to a profile breakdown of almost every country in the world. Important information such as population density, total land area and GDP is provided. There are three key components that enable this data platform, data standardization, analytics and repository.

Revolutionizing data access provides an invaluable resource for relief and aid efforts to handle any disaster or crisis. Relief workers are able to make informed decisions instantly thanks to the new platform. The new technology also helps NGOs and governments to adapt to any evolving requirements or necessities that may occur.

The HDX was first utilized during the apex of the West African Ebola epidemic. The World Health Organization was able to share crucial information. Data sets, such as the total number of West African cases, cumulative deaths, treatment centers and countries experiencing outbreaks were quickly made available. The World Food Programme was able to share its data of food market prices in West African countries as well. This data helped the people properly predict their rations and assess their finances to cope during the crisis.

“It is of paramount importance that food security and food assistance information is regularly collected and widely disseminated..this partnership with OCHA on HDX is an important aspect of WFP’s broader initiative on Open Data and transparency,” says Arif Husain the Chief Economist of the WFP and the Head of Food Security Analysis Service.

Husain goes on to say, “We believe that our partnership with OCHA HDX is a major milestone in improving peoples’ access to credible and timely information for the design and implementation of national food security programs, policies and projects.”

Such a monumental breakthrough in technological usability and exchange has already proven effective through the health crisis in West Africa. It appears HDX is set to revolutionize data sharing and humanitarian relief efforts worldwide.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: World Food Programme, Frog Design