The Open Technology Fund (OTF)’s FY 2017 Annual Report provides a snapshot of how we as a program operated during the most recently completed fiscal year. In the report, you’ll find descriptions of the projects and fellows we supported during this period; details of how their accomplishments have benefited people living under repressive censorship and surveillance regimes the world over; programmatic budget breakdowns; and our team’s observations of how the Internet freedom landscape has evolved (and where we see it going), among other details.
During this fiscal year,* OTF saw substantial growth in demand in terms of the number of applications received through our various funds, fellowships, and services. In calendar year 2017, for example, OTF received over 700 requests for support, and with one month remaining in 2018, that figure has already been far surpassed (we’re well over 1,000 as of this writing).
In the face of such expansive growth, we recognized the need to evolve as a program in some fundamental ways. For example, recognizing the speed and scale at which we were growing, OTF invested to improve the efficiency and utility of our application portal, transitioning to a new web-interface application system. This will vastly improve the usability experience for applicants and decrease the operational stress that tends to occur with legacy systems. This upgrade will allow for the program to continue to scale in the days, months, and years ahead.
In addition to such operational overhauls, OTF further fostered growth and development among Internet freedom communities living inside the world’s most repressive environments. We firmly believe that the best solutions to repressive censorship and surveillance must be informed by the people, communities, and networks living it day in and day out, for this is the context in which such solutions will ultimately be deployed and used. OTF continued to see more applications and supported more projects emanating from inside such contexts during FY 2017, a trend that has continued into 2018.
While the ever-increasing rise in demand for Internet freedom funding is reflective of OTF’s growth and trust within the Internet freedom community, we recognize that this trend has occurred in tandem with a commensurate decrease in Internet freedom worldwide. Freedom House reported in its most recent annual assessment that Internet freedom declined globally for the eighth year in a row, for example. By any measure, it is clear that during the FY 2017 period authoritarian regimes have only doubled down on their commitment to controlling online content and restricting free speech. Such powers are dedicating more and more resources to censoring content, blocking access, surveilling citizens, and – increasingly – sharing this know-how with like-minded regimes worldwide.
In the face of such a challenging environment, OTF is proud to support the members of the Internet freedom community who are on the frontlines in this David vs. Goliath battle, working hard day-in and day-out to make the Internet more open, safe, and accessible to those living under repressive regimes worldwide.
Read the full report (pdf) here.
*OTF’s Fiscal Year funding allotments are not closely aligned with the calendar year. This report covers programmatic spending for OTF’s FY2017 funding, which occurred during the latter half of calendar year 2017 and the first three quarters of calendar year 2018.