Seeking your feedback: Expanding our Engineering Lab

Mon, 2018-03-26 20:16

OTF is sharing a draft Request for Partners (RFP) for public review and comment. We are looking for professional organizations, agencies or individuals to support the existing services offered by our Engineering Lab and to support new additional services to be offered by the lab. If you have any questions or comments, please post them on the discussion thread for this RFP on our online forum, Any and all comments, questions, and/or RSVP to participate in a group question and answer call should be posted here. Direct emails may not be responded to.

Here is the current RFP schedule:

  • 26-Mar-2018: Draft RFP up for review
  • 09-Apr-2018, 09:00 and 16:00 ET (UTC -4): Public voice chats to discuss RFP (post here requesting call in info or email [email protected])
  • 11-Apr-2018: Post of actual RFP for review and application
  • 02-May-2018, 23:59 UTC: Close of RFP application
  • 09-May-2018: Awarded applicants notified

RFP: Expanding the Engineering Lab


Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Open Technology Fund (OTF) is soliciting proposals from professional organizations, agencies or individuals to to support the existing services offered by our Engineering Lab and to support new additional services to be offered by the lab. Engineering Lab services are only provided to those efforts advancing global internet freedom, within OTF’s mission and core focus areas. To this end OTF seeks services toward three different objectives.

RFA is a private nonprofit District of Columbia corporation, qualified as an organization exempt from federal income taxes under Internal Revenue Code Section 50l(c)(3). RFA was established under the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 to broadcast news and information in 13 languages and dialects to listeners in Asia who primarily have access to state-run media. RFA is funded by the U.S. government through an annual federal grant administered by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

The OTF program at RFA supports technology-centric projects and research which empower world citizens to have access to modern communication channels which are free from restrictions, and allows them to communicate without fear of repressive censorship or surveillance.

Objective 1: Support widespread deployment of internet freedom technology

Specific services sought for this objective to support those efforts performing integration, deployment, and/or maintenance of existing “ready-made” tools, libraries and protocols that enable anti-censorship, circumvention, or increased privacy and security functionality into third-party web and/or mobile applications. Also included would be support for the deployment and/or upkeep of services commonly needed by the internet freedom community. See the following “Scope of Services Requested” section for more detailed information on services.

Objective 2: Support easier deployment of internet freedom technology

Specific services sought for this objective intend to support those efforts making it easier to rapidly and safely deploy internet freedom technology (such as those within Objective 1) on common “Infrastructure-as-a-Service” (IaaS) or “Platform-as-a-Service” providers, via configuration management/automation solutions. Target providers may include (but are not limited to) offering a platform where you can launch (virtual) servers, containers, or others that enable developers to build, run, and operate applications entirely in the cloud. See the following “Scope of Services Requested” section for more detailed information on services.

Objective 3: Support the platforms relied upon by internet freedom technology

Specific services sought for this objective intend to support the availability, ongoing maintenance, upkeep, and/or costs of those service providers (such as those within Objective 2) commonly relied upon by internet freedom technologies. See the following “Scope of Services Requested” section for more detailed information on services.

More information about the Engineering Lab and each service area is below. This request is specifically for the regular integration and deployment of existing proven-to-be-useful tools and technologies, not their creation or advancing their development. For example, out of scope for this request would be the creation or continued development of a tool, library and/or protocol for their own sake. These projects should continue to apply to the Internet Freedom Fund or Core Infrastructure Fund.

We expect to offer a request for service partners annually for the stated above objectives and the below services or additions that prove to advance global internet freedom the most. We expect to accept multiple applications to become Engineering Lab service partners. As such, applicants may apply for one or more of the above listed areas of work.

Background information

OTF’s Engineering lab began in 2012 to support secure hosting and server solutions for developers creating technology to help people experiencing internet freedom repressions. (, offered by Greenhost and supported by OTF, is the lab’s current and primary service offering. Since then, other core internet freedom technologies have matured and proliferated to now be found regularly improving the censorship resiliency, circumvention capabilities, and security properties of technologies and content platforms with users at-risk of repression. In many cases, they are ready-made / drop-in components for existing tools.

Many of the makers of new or existing tools are not aware these core technologies exist, resulting in longer and duplicative development efforts to include these functions, or lacking them altogether. More, the maintainers of these core technologies are not receiving enough support to meet demand. In response, OTF seeks multiple service partners capable of performing this work as a service offering available to technology makers and content platforms serving people whose free expression is threatened.

OTF will provide the mechanism to support qualifying internet freedom and human rights apps and platforms what they need to improve the security and anti-censorship capabilities without requiring additional expertise or expense. The maintainers of an app or website in need can apply directly to OTF for support, choosing the specific services and provider, and let OTF triage for them. Alternatively, an app or website can go directly to a service provider capable of applying to OTF on their behalf. Additionally, OTF may rely on these service partners to support our Rapid Response Fund or Digital Integrity Fellowship programs.

Scope of services requested

An applicant could be applying on behalf of a specific tool they wish to augment with one of the below services or an entity with a history of providing the following services to multiple tools wishing to advance their effort. Applicants do not have to provide all of the listed services and can include additional services not listed, if included with a demonstration of how they will advance our stated goals. The following are a list of services we believe we need to accomplish the stated goals but encourage additional ideas outside these examples:

Objective 1: Support widespread deployment of internet freedom technology

  • Bundling common anti-censorship, privacy, and/or security libraries into mobile, web, and desktop applications advancing internet freedom;
    • Embedding various pluggable transports into apps (obfs-proxy, meek/domain-fronting, snowflake, etc.)
    • Psiphon/Tor/Lantern/uProxy/Wireguard/etc integration into existing apps (e.g. NetCipher)
    • Common tools and libraries (such as SQLCipher and IOCipher) that increase the security of existing or forthcoming mobile and desktop applications;
    • Deploying censorship resistant mirrors or reverse-proxies to at-risk websites via domain-fronting, Tor onion sites (e.g. Enterprise Onion Toolkit), CGIProxy or other portals available within services such as Psiphon or Lantern;
  • Deploying and supporting the cost of running common anti-censorship services such as: Tor Bridges, VPN/Proxy tools (e.g. StreisandAlgo VPNShadowsocks), and/or others for at-risk people.

Objective 2: Support easier deployment of internet freedom technology

Support for those making and maintaining:

  • Pre-configured images, buildpacks, etc. for common internet freedom technologies on popular IaaS or PaaS providers;
  • Pre-configured ansible roles/playbooks (or other configuration management/automation solutions) for common internet freedom technologies;
  • Or others with demonstration of relevance and need.

Objective 3: Support the platforms relied upon by internet freedom technology

  • Support to tenants, including web-based access to control their resources;
  • Monitoring, management, and incident response;
  • Outreach and communication to tenants;
  • Feature deployment for management systems;
  • IP/Power/Hardware upgrades as needed; and,
  • Other services with demonstration of relevance and need.

Feel free to submit other specific types of work that may fit within one of the above service areas. Within the application, please specify which of the service areas and specific types of work you could perform.Misc requirements


OTF seeks multiple individual consultants or organizations – from anywhere – with experience and ability to work with technology-centered communities to accomplish similar goals. Collaborative applications with more than one individual or organization are encouraged. Organization or individual submitting must be able to demonstrate a track record of integration, deployment, and/or maintenance of the specific service areas.

  • An understanding of the internet freedom community demographic, their culture, and preferences and/or previous working experience in the community strongly preferred;
  • Must agree to use our standard contract, including standard provisions for all USG-funded work (see language and contract).


OTF awards are performance-based contracts signed directly with the applicant. Payment is issued on completion of work on agreed upon services outlined in a contract. OTF reserves the right to award less or more than the funds requested as deemed in the best interest of OTF’s priorities.Schedule of activities

Acceptable applicants will offer to provide the requested services within a 24 month or less contract term.

  • DD-MMM-2018: Deadline for any posted questions (feel free to keep up but no promises we’ll get you answers)
  • DD-MMM-2018: Deadline for applications
  • DD-MMM-2018: Estimated date for issuing contracts

Note, we can and may change these at any time. We’ll update this page and the topic here (link to we.otf post) as changes occur.Selection process

Applications must be submitted no later than 23:59 (11:59PM) GMT on the date of deadline stated on the OTF website. We do not accept applications submitted via email, Fax, the U.S. postal system, FedEx, UPS and similar delivery companies, or courier. Only applications submitted through this online form will be considered. Applicants that do not meet any of these requirements may not be considered.

Ideal applicants are making use of, support, or develop open and accessible technologies, have a history of promoting human rights and open societies, and/or help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks. In addition, the following criteria must be met:

  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that OTF is not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC);
  • Non-profit organization/non-government organization, including U.S.-based NGO, PIO, or foreign NGO;
  • For-profit organization or business in any country;
  • Consortia of multiple people or organizations with one individual or organization designated as the lead applicant;
  • Have demonstrated experience administering successful projects, preferably targeting the requested program area, or similarly challenging program environments where OTF reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations;
  • Ideal applicants must not reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government.

Pre-selection engagement

While we will not be able to review any applications until after the deadline, we very much encourage and hope to support as much public engagement with potential applicants as possible. Here’s how:

  • Post any questions you may have to this request here ( We’ll do our best to answer as many of them as we can before the application deadline.