Supporting Critical Open-Source Technologies that enable a Free and Open Internet

u.s. embassy

Relevent Country: United States of America

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects to strengthen the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online through an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure global Internet, with a focus on technology development.
Competitive proposals will develop and implement programs to develop, improve, implement, and sustain open-source technologies which serve as critical foundations for a free and open Internet.
DRL is requesting program proposals to produce, support, innovate, implement, or advance the standardization of open-source internet technologies that provide software infrastructure and protocol functions for the sustainable protection and operation of an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet in ways that actively counter the progression of growing Internet restrictions by combatting repressive surveillance, censorship, and internet splintering.

Objectives may include, but are not limited to:
  • Developing, improving, or implementing internet communication protocols, software suites, or core Internet services, such as browsers or secure and resilient traffic routing and encryption, in ways that are necessary to and supportive of an open internet, with a focus on non-user-facing technologies. Improve upon or further develop, strengthen, or audit the censorship resistance and/or security properties of existing open-source internet communication technologies.
  • Implement or advance technical standards or policies that govern internet communication technologies, which enable and/or protect censorship resistance and/or security properties of open-source Internet technology, including in contexts such as international standard-setting bodies, to better serve the needs of at-risk and marginalized communities.
  • Provide or implement a sustainability plan, addressing issues such as ongoing maintenance of existing rights-enabling open-source technologies or protocols.
Key Program Considerations
  • This list of considerations is provided as a guide to help applicants develop responsive, robust program strategies.
Competitive programs must:
  • Be based on open-source software.
  • Have direct applicability to communication on the existing global internet.
  • Include sustainability plans that account for ongoing and long-term maintenance of open-source software.
  • Maintain high standards of security and reliability.
  • Prioritize approaches that emphasize decentralized ownership, community stewardship, and co-design processes, consistent with open-source technology culture.
Competitive programs must not:
  • Be based on closed-source or proprietary software.
  • Reflect or be based on aspirational technologies with no immediate applicability to the current global internet, or requiring large-scale adoption or integration for the achievement of programmatic objectives and goals.
All programs should aim to have impact that leads to reforms and have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources.  DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.
DRL is committed to advancing equity and support for underserved and underrepresented communities. In accordance with the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Underserved Communities, programs should implement strategies for integration and inclusion of individuals/organizations/beneficiaries that can bring perspectives based on their religion, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics, national origin, age, genetic information, marital status, parental status, pregnancy, political affiliation, or veteran’s status.  Programs should be demand-driven and locally led to the extent possible.
Funding Information
  • Total Funding Floor: $500,000
  • Total Funding Ceiling: $1,000,000
  • Anticipated Number of Awards: 1-2
  • Period of Performance: 2-3 years
  • Anticipated Time to Award, Pending Availability of Funds: 7 months
Eligibility Criteria
  • DRL welcomes applications from U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and public international organizations; private, public, or state institutions of higher education; and for-profit organizations or businesses. DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be some occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.
  • Applications submitted by for-profit entities may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process. Additionally, the Department of State prohibits profit to for-profit or commercial organizations under its assistance awards. Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs. The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures.