Technology at Scale Fund

Ensuring that USAGM audiences can access content safely through firewalls and other government attempts to censor objective news and allow journalists to safely do their work

The Technology at Scale Fund (TAS) seeks to help the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) safely create and deliver content to its online audience in censored environments. Understanding that there may be multiple approaches to helping USAGM audience members circumvent censorship at scale and facilitate secure reporting, content sharing and communications, this fund is not limited to predetermined technologies or methodologies.

Important Considerations

Applications to the Technology at Scale fund go through a two-stage process. First, a concept note focusing on the technical approach and potential effectiveness of proposed solutions, as well as the past performance of the tool the applicant submitted. Second, applicants whose proposed solutions are deemed highly competitive will then be invited to submit a full proposal focusing on the specific scope, costing and technical provision of the services to be offered to USAGM.

Solutions must be able to securely deliver unblocked content to millions of members of the USAGM audience in multiple countries with high reliability and/or provide secure communications or content sharing capabilities to USAGM journalists.

Applications to this fund will be evaluated and contracts competitively awarded based on:

  • Proven track record of successfully and safely circumventing online censorship in highly Internet restricted environments and/or providing secure content sharing and communications in repressive contexts

  • Resiliency and robustness of solution and ability to respond rapidly and effectively to censorship events

  • Capacity to support hundreds of thousands of simultaneous user sessions on an ongoing basis

  • Significant existing user-base including users in highly censored environments

  • Ability to provide independently verifiable reach and performance metrics

  • The open source nature of proposed solutions [This reflects a strong preference for fully open-source tools and open-sourced components wherever viable, and necessitates strong justification for any proprietary components]

  • Client support for major desktop and mobile platforms

  • A design and deployment model that meets the unique needs of USAGM broadcasters, journalists, and audiences

  • A recent independent security audit with results made available to OTF

  • Overall cost effectiveness of the solution and no cost to users in censored environments

  • Language support for most or all countries served by USAGM that attempt to censor content

  • A demonstrated focus and attentiveness to usability for a diverse global user base including in highly censored or surveilled environments.

  • Proven record of or commitment to community engagement and information-sharing

Keep in mind that the concept note is the first step in the process, and if your idea seems like a good fit, you’ll have the chance to expand upon it during the proposal stage.

When to Apply

TAS applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Apply here:

Review Process

  1. Concept Note Submission and Review

  2. Concept Note Determination: Once we’ve had the chance to review your idea and ask clarifying questions if needed, we’ll contact you and let you know whether your idea has been invited to submit a proposal or declined. If invited to proposal, we’ll specify a date by which you’ll need to submit that. If we’ve declined your idea, we’ll provide you with feedback on why your concept was not approved.

  3. Proposal Invitation: If invited to proposal, you’ll have the chance to expand beyond the high-level overview you shared with us in your concept note. The biggest difference between your concept note and proposal will be the level of detail around your project’s planned activities and budget. Ideal applicants are specific and cost-conscious in these areas, while drilling down on details that will help make your big-picture idea come to life. You can expect us to contact you with follow-up questions or comments to solicit additional clarifying information; we do this for just about all of the projects we end up supporting. You can find additional proposal-specific guidance in greater detail here.

  4. Advisory Council Review: OTF’s Advisory Council is made up of a diverse array of subject matter experts who understand various relevant fields and issues as they relate to Internet freedom. In their capacity as Advisory Council members, they provide strategic guidance to OTF, including by reviewing proposals. They are subject matter experts who have a vested interest in OTF funding decisions and are uniquely positioned to bolster our project oversight capacity, expertise, perspective, and accountability. At least two reviews from Advisory Council members are required before a proposal can move forward.

  5. Proposal Determination: Upon successful review by the OTF team and Advisory Council, we will inform you whether your proposal has been accepted or declined.

  6. Legal Review: Approved proposals are reviewed by our executive, legal and financial departments. If you reach this stage, an OTF Program Manager will be assigned to work with you on completing this step.

  7. Contract Issued: Once a contract has been approved, it will be issued to the applicant to sign and return. Note that each contract includes standard provisions for U.S. Government funded agreements.

  8. Project Oversight: Your assigned OTF Program Manager will be available to assist you for the duration of your contract. All OTF-issued contracts provision for consistent and diligent oversight that go beyond the minimum accountability safeguards and requirements. Please note that payments are only made once OTF determines that contract deliverables have been satisfactorily completed.

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