Internet Freedom Fund

The Internet Freedom Fund is OTF's primary way to support projects and people working on open and accessible technology-centric projects that promote human rights, internet freedom, open societies, and help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks. Successful applicants are awarded monetary support up to $900,000 and no less than $10,000, with preference given to those projects and people who are new to the internet freedom community, helping those living within repressive environments, and are requesting less than $300,000 for a duration of less than 12 months.
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Setting the stage

The Internet Freedom Fund improves existing internet freedom tools, invests in next-generation tools that move beyond the traditional “cat-and-mouse” techniques, supports projects that emphasize applied research, or address technological and political developments affecting global internet freedom. In addition, a strong interest exists for efforts focused on improving the usability and adoptability of internet freedom technologies.

Successful applicants are awarded monetary support up to $900,000 and no less than $10,000, with preference given to those projects and people who are new to the internet freedom community and are requesting less than $300,000 for a duration of less than 12 months. All application’s primary focus should be for solutions that directly affect individuals living in the most repressive environments.

This announcement does not constitute a formal Request for Proposals: OTF will invite select organizations that submit concept notes to expand on their ideas via a full proposal separately.

You can stay up to date on all OTF submission deadlines and open submissions windows for other potential funders by joining the OTF-announce mailing list. To join, please send a message via this page with subscribe in the subject line.


Thought starters

Good ideas

Ideal applications may include but are not limited to:

  • Development of new technologies for defeating censorship, for maintaining availability of information, and for alternative network infrastructures;
  • Improvements to proven technologies including deployment, expansion, adaptation, usability and/or localization of proven anti-censorship technologies; and improvement of usability and user interfaces to enable broader populations of users to adopt anti-censorship tools;
  • Content redistribution that uses new methods to reintroduce content behind firewalls or similar services;
  • Research that focus on real-time monitoring and analysis of both technical and policy threats to internet freedom, including network interference and disruptions;
  • Targeted research to ensure that global stakeholders are better informed about key threats to and opportunities for Internet freedom; and,
  • Evaluations that assess the effectiveness of Internet freedom efforts, including the use, security and/or effectiveness of digital security tools, the impact of digital safety trainings, or policy advocacy efforts.

We greatly value applications that include collaborative partnerships. In addition, strong priority goes to applications with the potential for immediate affects that lead to long-term sustainable positive change, particularly for at-risk and vulnerable people living within repressive environments, or the countries and regions OTF is trying serve. While not mandatory, preference is given to applications making use of or supporting open source technologies with practical deployment and sustainability plans.

Applications should also have a model for long-term sustainability beyond the life of OTF support, and should be able to demonstrate potential for continued funding beyond OTF resources.

Review and selection process


Quality of project idea: Applications should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the mission of promoting freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online.

Ability to achieve objectives: A relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity of the organization. The work plan should adhere to the overview and guidelines described above. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable. After this application, OTF will request a full proposal, where applicants will have to provide a monthly timeline of project activities.

Cost effectiveness: Any overhead and administrative components included in the application should be kept as low as possible. All items should be necessary and appropriate. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged and is viewed favorably by OTF.

Multiplier effect/sustainability: Applications should address how the expected results will contribute to improving internet freedom goals. Applications should address how the effort will be sustained in the long-term.

Applicants record and capacity: OTF will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives.

The Application Process

When are decisions for applications made? A review of applications is made every two months or six times a year.

Step 1: The Concept Note: We make a public call for applications every two months that we call a Request. During the first phase, applicants submit a concept note which is reviewed by the OTF team. A concept note application must be submitted no later than 23:59 (11:59PM) GMT on the date of deadline using the OTF website. OTF will not accept applications submitted via email, Fax, the U.S. postal system, FedEx, UPS and similar delivery companies, or courier. Applicants that do not meet this requirement may not be considered. Generally, it takes OTF three weeks to inform an applicant whether a concept note has been accepted or denied.

Step 2: The Proposal: If a concept note is accepted, OTF will provide the applicant with feedback and more information to create a proposal, which is a more extensive description of the proposed effort. A proposal will be evaluated by a panel of experts from OTF’s Advisory Board that have experience in and knowledge about the focus of the proposal. Proposals are also reviewed and determined every two months. OTF may consider any proposal with multiple Advisory Board member evaluations sufficient for final determination ahead of deadlines.

Step 3: The Contract: Finally, if a proposals is accepted, a contract is issued by OTF, and signed.

Alternative Sources of Support: In some cases, OTF may value an application but for numerous reasons may not be able to support it. If this happens, OTF will refer the applicant to alternative sources of support.

Review panel

Award information

OTF awards are performance-based contracts signed directly with the applicant. Payment is issued on completion of stated objectives, activities, and deliverables per a schedule outlined in the contract. OTF reserves the right to award less or more than the funds requested as deemed in the best interest of OTF’s priorities. Applications that request more than the award ceiling of 900,000 or less than the award floor of $10,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

Project and Budget Periods

OTF awards are generally 6 to 18 months in duration. From time to time, OTF may consider requests to extend existing contracts beyond previously agreed upon durations. Any such decision will be subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the applicants, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of program priorities.

Monitoring & Evaluations

OTF views monitoring and evaluation as a way to learn from those we support, and share lessons learned with future applicants. This improves the collective knowledge of the community, and thus contributes to its sustainability. Monitoring usually consists of monthly reports and, when applicable, monthly phone, in-person and/or email conversations. We ask that awardees track and report on their progress against the outputs listed in their application.


Ideal applicants are making use of, support, or develop open and accessible technologies promoting human rights and open societies, and 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;
  • Non-profit university or research institution in any country;
  • 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 should not duplicate or simply add to efforts supported by other USG funding programs;
  • 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.

A Commitment to Diversity

OTF prioritizes projects coming from individuals or organizations who are new to the internet freedom community and are requesting less than $300,000 for efforts with a duration less than 12 months. This allows us to empower a new pool of technology and development talent that may not have been otherwise supported.

Similar requests

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