How we helped the United Nations deploy data for a more impactful humanitarian response

argo turned an aspirational vision into a tangible technology roadmap focused on data organization and consumption, improved UX, and employee experience.

A future-ready strategy to meet increasing demand

Humanitarian crises are dynamic and so is the data needed to understand them. Massive amounts of data play a crucial role in the ongoing efforts of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Its Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) platform lies at the core of global crisis management, aggregating data from 300 entities around the world, allowing for data discovery and sharing of insights across crises and organizations. 

Managed by OCHA’s Centre for Humanitarian Data, HDX has seen significant growth over the past five years that outpaced their target of a 25% year-on-year increase in users. At the same time, the sector is contending with ever greater quantities of data and more sophisticated humanitarian users. argo brought expertise in service design, technology, and product strategy to reinforce core capabilities of the platform so that it can operate at increased scale. 

  • 9 weeks 

    Engagement timeline

  • 38 participants

    Donors, partners, consumers, and contributors

  • 51 sessions

    Interviews, deep dives, and reviews

  • 27 hours

    Technical demonstrations

Crawl, walk, run, fly

To effectively walk the tightrope between reinforcing platform fundamentals and recommending strategic expansion areas, the argo team coalesced technical feedback on 5 critical opportunity areas and sequenced the work over the next 18-24 months.

  • UNOCHA Case Study Opportunity Icon

    Data as a service 

  • UNOCHA CaseStudy Opportunity Icon

    Geographical data services

  • UNOCHA CaseStudy Opportunity Icon


  • UNOCHA CaseStudy Opportunity Icon

    Alerts and notifications

argo’s systems approach will guide the HDX team’s work over the next two years, resulting in smarter technical approaches to make data more usable and accessible to everyone in the humanitarian data ecosystem. Data standardization and programmatic API access will enable HDX to become a service platform, giving their community the ability to query data from separate organizations— the UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Programme, for example— and draw insights  to respond to people in need of assistance. 

The resulting HDX roadmap transforms the team’s aspirations for the platform into defined technical solutions  that will set the standard for crisis data management for years to come.

argo brought their deep knowledge of technology and system design to drive HDX to the next level. The humanitarian data ecosystem has matured since HDX was first launched in 2014, and we have to keep pace with our users and the increasing complexity of crisis response. argo helped us refine our priority areas for improvement and brought clarity to how we need to sequence the development work over the coming two years. The end result will be a more advanced approach to data services and increased automation of internal workflows to help us manage data at scale.

Sarah Telford

Centre for Humanitarian Data, OCHA

Next Project


Apollo’s Odyssey: How we injected humanity into a humanoid robot