The effective use of data is changing the face of humanitarian response, providing unprecedented opportunities to innovate and to better assist affected populations. Whether using social media to identify needs in a natural disaster such as Typhoon Hagupit (2014), or deploying mobile survey tools in Nepal (2015) for faster post-earthquake assessments, the possibilities of these technologies are numerous and profound. Data can be used to understand needs, target the right kind of support, monitor how a crisis is changing and understand impact.
At present, data is not being used optimally to inform humanitarian policy and operational response. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will therefore establish a Humanitarian Data Centre in the Netherlands for an initial three-year period, from 2017-2019. The mission of the Centre is to work with partners to increase the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector. The vision is to create a future where all people involved in a humanitarian situation have access to the data they need, when and how they need it, to make responsible and informed decisions.
The Centre will benefit from the wider ecosystem that is being established by the city of The Hague through the launch of its Humanity Hub, a shared space for groups working on data-driven innovation in humanitarian action.
The Centre’s true innovation will be in its operating model. It will be led by OCHA and include several OCHA staff but will bring together partners from the UN, NGOs, the private sector, academia and governments to work together on common data challenges. The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide initial support for the Centre’s activities. Additional support is welcome through direct funding, in-kind support, personnel, and participation on an advisory board.
The Centre will focus its activities across four areas
Data literacy; and
The selection of these focus areas is based on an increase in demand for such support by OCHA staff and partners and through the direct experience of working on initiatives like the Humanitarian Data Exchange.