February 16 2023 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EST / 2pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

Everything You Should Know about OTF Free and Open Source Software Sustainability (FOSS) Fund with Ramy Raoof

The conversation will center on Open Technology Funds (OTF) goal to promote long-term sustainability through reliable funding within the FOSS ecosystem. In this meet-up Ramy will share important information on the FOSS fund, OTFs long-term objectives, what you will need to know when putting together your proposal for the fund, and how OTF can support you.

Bio: Ramy Raoof is a technologist, privacy and digital security researcher, who works on the intersection of technology and social causes such as privacy, security and access to information, by devoting his skills as a techie and passion for free/open culture. His recent works focus on researching targeted digital attacks against human rights defenders and NGOs and developing digital security protocols and capacity building with activists in the Middle East and Central America around targeted surveillance and mass censorship. Over the past 10 years he developed digital security strategies for NGOs and members of the media, as well as rapid response plans in cases of physical threats and operational plans for human rights emergency response teams in Egypt, the Middle East and the Northern Africa Region. Ramy also developed strategies in support of publishing sensitive material and secure systems for managing information about sexual violence and torture survivors. He also contributed to the testing of privacy apps, the localization of few privacy apps into Arabic and the development of organizational privacy protocols.

  • Mattermost: @ramy
  • Email: ramy@opentech.fund
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/RamyRaoof


My name is Ramy (pronoun he/him), I am from Cairo, currently in Berlin. My background is privacy, computer science and digital security. Before OTF, I used to be with Citizen Lab, Amnesty Tech Security Lab, Tor Project and EIPR, Mix of analyzing digital attacks, developing security protocols, running infrastructure, digisec and general support.

so to give folks some background, OTF announced a new funding mechanism a couple weeks ago at OTF Summit, we published a blogspot and small video teaser to kick start. Now this AMA is around this.

For the people who might not know much about Open Technology Fund's Work, and Goals, how and why did you come up with the FOSS fund?
  • The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Sustainability Fund is a new mechanism that OTF developed to support the long-term maintenance of FOSS projects and the communities that sustain them.
  • The motivation behind this are few reasons:
    • On one hand OTF is growing and in a better shape: our budget / finance is growing, we expanded our team to include more amazing folks and we are looking into expanding our offerings and scope of work to address emerging and existing problems in the space.
    • Historically speaking,  most free and open source tools had access to resources to support their work from ideation / discovery stages, all the way to first iteration, prototype and first public release. But the same tools and people don't have access to resources to support their maintenance for a variety of reasons. And now we are help resolve this gap.
    • The internet freedom tools and apps that communities living in authoritarian and repressive contexts rely on require additional support and attention beyond their initial release. This support includes maintenance to ensure their stability, the safety of their users, and their ability to adapt to various digital threats continually evolving in different environments.
  • Generally speaking, in the funding space and even for OTF historically, maintenance / sustainability was something we don't speak about, kind of taboo because there is nothing shiny or new, it needs lots of attention and money.. but now everyone is seeing how they are impacted negatively.
  • Part of the general mind shift we are trying to do supporting the proper maintenance of open-source software projects helps ensure that all users have better access to privacy and security tools. It contributes to a better internet experience for all communities regardless of location or whether or not they are at risk.
  • This also means the future of circumvention technologies, digital security apps, safety protocols, etc rely on longevity and health of the underlying infrastructure.
How will the application process for this fund be different compared to OTF's Internet Freedom Fund (if at all)?
  • OTF historically has been relying on US Government money for the majority of OTF history, along with the legal safeguards everything has to be open source and everything has to get a security audit. With all the flexibility we have, there are still lots of limitations that OTF can not support with that money. For the first time this year, OTF is opening the door to private donations and investors.
  • We are launching the sustainability fund along with contributions of more sources:
    • This allows us flexibility to support more things we couldn't' using USG.
    • This is a FOSS ecosystem problem, and no one source of funding should be dominant. So diversity in funding reflects diversity in the space.
    • We can support more people.
How about privacy and security hardware? Does OTF also support that?
  • Yes we do, all software relies on underlying hardware, to maintain the software we must show equal love to hardware.
  • Also, OTF FOSS Fund started with support from Schmidt Futures' Plaintext Group, Omidyar Network, Okta, and GitHub.
Can you tell us what safeguards are in place to make sure that those new supporters don't have the ability to threaten project stability if they withdraw funds?
  • Thanks for this question. OTF now has permanent authorization and budget with the Congress, and after the court rulings in OTF favor, all the threats/firing that happened to my colleagues won't happen again, we now have the upper hand in many things.
  • No one interferes with our decision making cycle, not even OTF President (Laura) all decisions and reviews happen at the program level only. More safeguarding includes only work with open source, we mandate security audits and provide it.
  • We also have now private funding to support folks, that being said all FOSS projects should have diversity in their support and should not rely on single point of failure including OTF.
Could you speak to how OTF is collaborating with the other funders mentioned in the blog post? How did that collaboration come about - was OTF looking to diversify or did those organizations reach out for OTF's expertise?
  • The program team spent around 8 months in research and ideation for this funding mechanism. We spoke with lots of FOSS projects, community leads, like minded orgs in the space (such as Linux Foundation, Open Source Foundation, FSF and this space), and we were very keen to not start this alone because it doesn't make sense and won't be useful. Teamwork is key here so collaborating with more is important.
  • For example OTF encourages more countries to commit towards FOSS. In Germany now there is a new Sovereign Tech Fund, and they are doing great work. The Netherlands and France might join forces.
  • Because we also consider ourselves an "experimental fund" , we learn from every iteration. We try to network with more orgs to commit to FOSS ecosystem. And support all projects with variety of % from each so no single fund dominates, while maintaining OTF program team decision making cycle, which is open and transparent on our website how do we decide, how much we spent..etc
  • OTF is also continuing to expand our private funders to include more, and whoever is contributing is usually one-off to us. And otf maintain more than 50%
The funding sector in this field has a huge accessibility problem. How is the fund designed, that is through application process, eligibility criteria etc. to reach as many practitioners as possible in an equitable manner?
  • We are currently developing the intake process (application, review, decision cycle) and we should go live Q3 this year sometime around summer I hope.
  • The current consideration we came up during the research: the following will act like as guiding criteria to accept supporting projects that fits the FOSS Sustainability Fund’s remit:
    • Release: software has been released for at least 3 years.
    • Updates: the project pushes updates at least four times a year.
    • Userbase: the project has at least 1000 active users if it's an app or tool.
    • Development: any form of active coding towards the software has occurred in the last 3 years.
Does OTF fund research?
  • Yes, OTF funds: Applied Research - Technology Development - Community Convening, Digital Security. Projects focused on counteracting repressive censorship and surveillance.
  • I invite you to check out our guidebook for applicant for more info and overview and feel free to ask us anytime hello@opentech.fund
Do you know if this fund will be project based, with objectives and deliverables? Or is it more like general operating?
  • You decide and tell us what best works with you. we will have flexibility for both. From a sustainability point of view, it doesn't make any sense to me to expect meaningful impact because it's all code maintenance, there are no new features, and folks need to basically do house cleaning. So they decide their road map and we support them.
Is this fund open to new projects that look forward to implement correct sustainability or also to existing projects that would like to get their posture independently "audited"?
  • This is open to any project that intersects with internet freedom. Current/past/existing OTF projects are only a small portion of that, we would love to work with 100 new projects we didn't before. Any app / tool / library / script / protocol.
A participant asks: we consider sustainability goes along with governance and definition of a proper governance for the project. Is this a topic that fits in the fund and on which an organization could ask support?
  • Yes, governance is a big problem for many projects, and we support that including staffing, healthy team, finance,
  • The process is highly driven by the team leads and each project current priorities / problems / road map. Over incremental support over time that allows them to be in healthier place 5 years from now.
Are there any additional resources, or support for people interested in the fund to learn more?
  • At OTF, we have two primary ways in support folks one door is direct funding through our current mechanisms here https://www.opentech.fund/funds/ or services through our labs here https://www.opentech.fund/labs/
  • Our guidebook also has detailed explanation, process overview, as well as alternative sources of support that people can speak -> https://guide.opentech.fund/
What's the best way to get news about this fund / its upcoming public launch?
  • Our mailing list (otf-talk) and our website. we should go public around sept / august. We did community closed announcement at OTF summit, we will do a public announcement at RightsCon, and start the public intake around summer this year