Digital Infrastructure Grants

Research grants for the study of digital infrastructure maintenance.

Budget


Transparent and open finances.

Financial contribution to Cooperative Model for Digital I...

from Digital Infrastructure Grants

-$14,127.34USD
Completed

Omidyar Network Contribution

from Omidyar Nework

+$50,000.00USD
Completed

Mozilla's Contribution

from Mozilla Foundation

+$25,000.00USD
Completed

Today’s balance

$400,622.66 USD

Contribute


Become a financial contributor.

Project

Infrastructure Funder's Toolkit

Implementing recommendations for funders of open source infrastructure with guides, programming, ...
Project

Security Ramifications of Open Source Software

What are the security ramifications of the extensive use of open-source software in modern softwa...
Project

Mapping African digital infrastructures

How can African participation in the development, maintenance and application of the global open ...
Project

Fairness & Digital Infrastructure

How do perceptions of unfairness when contributing to an open source project affect the sustainab...
Project

Fostering Open Collaboration

Will cross-company visibility into shared free and open source dependencies lead to cross-company...
Project

Municipal Digital Infrastructure

How do we build, sustain & improve city-led open source infrastructure projects?
Project

Digital Infrastructure Incubator

Supporting projects to implement research-informed best practices at the time of need. Areas of w...
Project

FOSS & Multilingual Computing

How do open source tools contribute towards creating a multilingual internet?
Project

API ToS: Towards a Creative Commons Model

How a Creative Commons model for API Terms of Service participate in the creation of open, safe a...
Project

Cooperative Model for Digital Infrastructure

Research the structurers, contributions, financial sustainability of open source cooperatives

has contributed

Project

Open Source COVID Data Infrastructure

How are COVID data infrastructures created and transformed by builders and maintainers from the o...
Project

Digital Infrastructure vs Climate Change

What makes indegenous open source projects & collectives critical digital infrastructure and how ...

Top financial contributors

1
Ford Foundation

$303k USD since Aug 2020

2
Open Society Foundations

$100k USD since Jul 2020

3
Omidyar Nework

$50k USD since Oct 2020

4
Mozilla Foundation

$25k USD since Aug 2020

Digital Infrastructure Grants is all of us

Our contributors 7

Everyone who has supported Digital Infrastructure Grants. Individuals and organizations that believe in –and take ownership of– our purpose.

Ford Foundation
Financial Contributor

Total contributions

$302,500 USD

Open Society ...
Financial Contributor

Total contributions

$100,000 USD

Omidyar Nework
Financial Contributor

Total contributions

$50,000 USD

Mozilla Found...
Financial Contributor

Total contributions

$25,000 USD

About


Everything in our modern society, from hospitals and banks to universities and social media platforms, runs on software. Nearly all of this software is built on “digital infrastructure,” a foundation of free and public code that is designed to solve common challenges. The benefits of digital infrastructure are numerous: it can reduce the cost of setting up new businesses, support data-driven discovery across research disciplines, enable complex technologies such as smartphones to talk to each other, and allow everyone to have access to important innovations like encryption that would otherwise be too expensive. Sharing code to address common challenges is in principle cheaper, easier and more efficient.

While the collective action problems that characterize infrastructure funding are well-explored, the industrial organization of digital infrastructure is less well-understood. In 2016, the Ford Foundation funded a report by Nadia Eghbal titled “Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure” that described how that the development and maintenance of digital infrastructure often falls to communities of volunteers who take it upon themselves to maintain this infrastructure in their own free time and for little or no money. Unsurprisingly, this leads to significant risks to the open internet and the ability to develop new, innovative research and businesses within it.

In order to better understand the incentives and constraints that influence the maintenance of digital infrastructure, in 2018 the Sloan and Ford Foundations funded a portfolio of 13 research projects. In some cases the findings of these projects open up further questions, while in others they suggest interventions that could strengthen community practices.

To continue to advance this agenda, this RFP invites proposals to further study the maintenance of digital infrastructure. This new RFP is being funded again by Ford Foundation and Sloan Foundation as well as Mozilla and Open Society Foundations. Among the questions that could be addressed by such research are:

  • What makes digital infrastructure “critical”? How should support for digital infrastructure projects be prioritized, and by whom? How can the value of digital infrastructure be quantified through economic, social, security, or other measures?
  • How might we assess the reliability of digital infrastructure? What incentives and supports might foster more robust auditing and maintenance?
  • What is the role that companies and other private institutions should play in maintaining a stable ecosystem of open source technology, and with what kinds of accountability mechanisms? What are the trade-offs between private sector, government, university, civil society, and/or volunteer maintenance of digital infrastructure?
  • How can communities that maintain digital infrastructure best be sustained? What are the unique challenges of diversity, motivation, and health for such open projects, and what formal and informal policies are needed to improve them?
  • Are certain skills or expertise missing or weak in the field of digital infrastructure, such as management experience or succession planning? How can the skills of individual maintainers, developers and advocates of open source technology be strengthened?
  • How are systemic inequalities like racism, sexism, ableism, and/or xenophobia encoded in digital infrastructure, and how might that encoding be dismantled? How might the diverse local and global communities reliant on this infrastructure exercise power and more actively shape its creation and maintenance?
  • What are the policy and regulatory considerations for the long-term sustainability of digital infrastructure? What kinds of capacity are needed, for example in government, philanthropy, or civil society, to ensure long-term development of digital infrastructure in the public interest?

These questions are intended as prompts and ideas - concept notes do not need to answer these questions specifically and respondents are welcome to pose their own questions.

In addition, for this second phase we invite proposals that would move findings from the first funded research cohort into practice. Such initiatives should clearly note the specific research finding that is guiding any proposed intervention, and articulate how impact will be measured.

We seek to support proposals addressing a range of issues and a range of different scopes. As part of your concept we will ask you to provide a rough sense of the size of your project according to three cost tiers. Please note that the cost tier does not indicate a length of time: proposals may cover any time range, regardless of cost. We expect most projects will fall into a 6 to 24 month time range, but this is not a hard requirement.

Cost Tiers:
  • Small: Under $50k
  • Medium: $50k - $125k
  • Large: over $125k-$200k

FAQ

Who is eligible?

Individuals, Organizations (nonprofit and for-profit), and Academic Institutions are eligible.

Are non-US organizations able to apply?


Yes! Organizations based outside of the United States are encouraged to apply.

If accepted, when would my grant start?

The grant start date would be sometime between October 1st and December 31st, 2020.

If accepted, who will be managing my grant?

We will be working through the Open Collective Foundation, who will manage all grants provided through this program.

How much funding is available?

The total amount is subject to change and not public at this time, but at this time we anticipate it to be somewhat similar to the amount funded through the 2018 RFP which was $1.3M USD.

RFP Changes

This is the original version of the RFP, posted on July 20th, 2020.

July 22nd, 2020: Added a question to the FAQ section.
July 29th, 2020: Added link to register for upcoming info sessions.
August 14th, 2020: Added link to the 8/20 event and to the Ford digital infrastructure site.