Skills requirements

If you know how to edit a spreadsheet, then you are ready to share HXL data. You simply insert one extra row in any existing spreadsheet and fill it with humanitarian hashtags identifying the type of information in each column.

This is an important design criterion for HXL: that it fit in with existing skills in the humanitarian community, rather than requiring retraining. With thousands of humanitarian organisations responding to crises around the world, it would not be practical to expect you all to train staff and volunteers to learn to use a more-complex data structure like XML, JSON, or RDF, or to all learn and adopt additional software to support one of those formats.

HXL and advanced data systems

Some larger humanitarian organisations don’t rely exclusively on spreadsheets, but have built special applications for data management. For example, UNHCR operates a series of operational data portals that generate CSV data for download from their information systems. HXL can work with systems like these just as easily as it can work with hand-created spreadsheets. Again, no additional skills are required from the systems’ development teams: simply add an additional row of HXL hashtags to the CSV data that you’re already exporting, and then others will be able to analyse and integrate it more easily.