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 that promote the ability of small groups of at-risk populations (human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society) to share information and files easily and securely during full Internet shutdowns.
Online censorship has increased dramatically over the last decade. According to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, repressive governments increasingly use Internet shutdowns as a strategy to limit the freedoms of expression, access to information, and assembly of civil society, political opposition, and marginalized populations during political and social unrest.
In order to ensure that civil society actors, independent media, and vulnerable and at-risk populations have improved access to these critical resources during times of social upheaval and network disruption, DRL is seeking proposals for a multi-year program to:
- continue deployment, sustainable implementation, expansion, and localization of an existing and proven wireless, Internet-independent peer-to-peer network communication system; and/or
- support and implement advocacy among technical standards-setting bodies and private ICT device providers to promote the widespread adoption and app-independent implementation of existing peer-to-peer communications protocols and standards.
Programs may include and encompass mesh networking-style systems, latency-resistant and asynchronous communications systems, and may employ software-defined networking techniques to permit a range of communications strategies during a network disruption event. Protocols and standards may also include but are not limited to Bluetooth, multicast DNS, or Neighbor Awareness Networking.
Program proposals that feature the deployment of wireless peer-to-peer communications technology deployment must include the following components:
- Deployment, localization, and sustainable maintenance of a proven existing free, open-source, wireless and Internet-independent peer-to-peer communications platform and network, with the features described above, and with end user-facing client interfaces. Technologies proposed should reflect technical components that are beyond the proof-of-concept stage, and preference will be given to systems that have demonstrated feasibility, and even an existing user base in the target contexts.
- A comprehensive outreach program to encourage the adoption of the tool by new users in the target contexts, including through, but not limited to, the development and implementation of marketing or other awareness raising strategies to reach an expanded number of new users beyond the established and sophisticated user base for such tools; and the collection and analysis of information on the market for, and number of potential users of, offline peer-to-peer communications tools in the target context.
- The development and implementation of alternative distribution methods to ensure access to the tool in the event of app store censorship, to include the development and
- implementation of an alternative app stores, and/or other means of access for non- technical users.
- A development strategy that emphasizes human-centered design and usability, including the development and testing of unique, appealing, and user-friendly client interfaces with end-user groups, in order to ensure adoption and ease of use.
- Funding Floor: $1,000,000
- Funding Ceiling: $1,000,000
- Anticipated Number of Awards: 1
- Period of Performance: 2-3 years
- Anticipated Time to Award, Pending Availability of Funds: 9 months
Priority Regions: Global, with a focus on the most Internet repressive environments.
- DRL welcomes applications from U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/nongovernment 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.
For more information, visit https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=337269