NOFO: Co-opting International Data Standards and Norms

Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting’s (IWPR) Information Access Fund

Application Deadline: COB (EST) March 26, 2021

This Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is a full and open competition.

A.  Program Description

Through the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s Cooperative Agreement with the Department of State, this full and open competition announcement invites organizations to submit a proposal for funding via a subaward agreement. Organizations will preferably have experience in cybersecurity, digital policy, and/or international data management.  Organizations and their partners should have recent prior experience and/or extensive networks in the subject matter.  

Budget: Estimated available funding is up to $450,000 for one award.

Length of Project Period: Up to eight months.

Background: Authoritarian powers including the PRC and Russia seek to shift and influence cross-domain (public, private, and academic sectors) and cross-border data norms and standards to promote their interests.  Beijing has long advocated for “cyber sovereignty,” the idea that a state should have absolute authority over cross-domain internet activity and infrastructure within its borders.  Beijing has used the concept to justify the CCP’s mass surveillance, censorship, and data localization, which ignore international obligations on freedom of expression, innovation, intellectual property rights, and human rights and undermine the internet’s cross-border nature.  In September 2020, the PRC launched the Global Data Security Initiative (GDSI) ostensibly to promote its vision for international norms on cybersecurity and internet and data governance.  The PRC pursued efforts to institutionalize this initiative across international fora, including through the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, a new UN data training center based in the PRC, and the Group of Governmental Experts on cyber.  The PRC’s United Nations General Assembly position paper suggests that it is “urgent to make international rules [for data security] that reflect the views and interests of the majority of countries.”  These efforts to expand the PRC’s influence are exacerbated by the exportation of ICT infrastructure and technology through the Digital Silk Road.   

The PRC’s efforts to shape Internet governance and data flows largely ignore existing, broad based, international support for an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet.  A multi-stakeholder community governs the current internet and data framework and includes a variety of stakeholders from governments, to businesses, to academia and civil society.  As authoritarian powers aim to reset global data norms and change standards to fit their aims, there appear to be risks to core values of freedom, openness, transparency, reciprocity, innovation, and security online.  The PRC uses propaganda and disinformation to advance its norms, which as publicly articulated, often belie oppressive CCP practices, as seen in the contradictions between the PRC’s assertions in the GDSI for an open ICT supply chain and respect for data privacy, and opposing mass surveillance and data and intellectual property theft.  There may be additional costs for those countries struggling to keep up with the pace of technological change.
Under the subaward, the implementing partner will 1) identify and document bilateral, regional, and multilateral efforts undertaken by the PRC to change data norms and global standards in order to advance the PRC’s  concept of cyber sovereignty, including the level of effort and specific actors; 2) identify whether and to what extent other state and non-state actors are supporting those efforts; 3) develop case studies that examine and analyze how the PRC gathers and utilizes data domestically, as well as overseas, to further the CCP agenda to control cross domain data flows; and 4) provide an interactive resource or tool to allow people to explore how China’s data norms and standards efforts may impact specific sectors of the economy and the open internet and society more broadly.   

The target audiences for the deliverable will include foreign national and sub-national governments, industry, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and individuals responsible for/interested in cybersecurity, data policy, human rights, and transparency.  These target audiences should include those from countries who have built/are seeking compliance with existing governance frameworks as well as those who are most greatly impacted by restrictive/oppressive data and cybersecurity regimes.

Project Goal: Raise awareness of Beijing’s efforts to circumvent and/or change existing internet and data governance frameworks through various propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation activities.

Project Objectives:

  1. Create a report that details how PRC activities, views, and narratives on data governance and data flows could impact or is impacting existing internet governance frameworks and the corollary effect on various countries.
  2. Robustly disseminate analyses to target audiences and ensure relevant influencers and decision makers have access to and seek to use the analyses to inform decision making around data standards and norms.

Project Outputs and Required Elements:

  • A publicly available report that includes:
    • Assessment of China's current and previous efforts in the data realm
    • Assessment of countries that advocate for PRC priorities and/or amplify PRC messages
    • Assessment of the extent to which PRC digital connectivity and technology exports may corollate with governments’ support for the PRC.
    • Case studies
  • End products should be translated into appropriate languages
  • Interactive resource/tool 
  • Dissemination and Outreach: the grantee will develop and execute an outreach plan that includes at minimum four roll-out events each focused on a different target audience (ex. different countries, regions, etc.), and could also include briefings, social media promotion, interviews and other public engagements

Project Outcomes: Target audiences are aware of and have access to project outputs and seek to use them to inform decision making.

B. Process and Regulations

Proposals: Should be no longer than five pages in length. Proposals should outline submitting organization’s background and expertise to take on this project. Proposals should describe the specific approach the organization will take to achieve the project objectives and include an execution plan.  Proposals should include a budget and a short budget narrative.

In addition to the five-page proposal and budget/budget narrative, proposals should include a theory of change as well as clear objectives, outcomes, outputs, and activities organized in a logical framework. The theory of change should be a brief if/then statement that describes why the proposed program is expected to achieve the anticipated results among the target audience. To explain how the applicant proposes to achieve the project's results and meet the objectives, the proposal should describe the activities of the proposed program, the expected outputs (goods, services, or deliverables) from those activities, and the expected outcomes (how those activities will achieve the objective). Additionally, some forethought should be given to cost-effective indicators that will measure the outcomes and outputs.  M&E plans are not subject to the proposal's five-page limit.

Proposals will be evaluated and scored on the following: Total 100 points available: A maximum of 15 points for background/experience, 40 points for proposal quality and responsiveness, 15 points for monitoring and evaluation; 15 points for budget and budget narrative (including value for money); 15 points for risk management and contingency planning, (including COVID).

Any questions concerning this NOFO should be submitted in writing to IWPR via email. Please address any questions to by COB EST March 5, 2021. If need be, answers to any questions will be publicly announced on IWPR’s website (

To be eligible for the award, applicants must provide all required information. Applications that are submitted late, incomplete or are non-responsive might not be considered.

Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of IWPR or the U.S. government, nor does it commit IWPR or the U.S. government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of an application. In addition, final award of any resultant grant agreement cannot be made until funds have been fully appropriated, allocated, and committed through internal IWPR and USG procedures. While it is anticipated that these procedures will be successfully completed, potential applicants are hereby notified of these requirements and conditions for award. Applications are submitted at the risk of the applicant. All preparation and submission costs are at the applicant's expense. All applicants must have a valid DUNS number.

The successful organisation will be responsible for ensuring achievement of the program objectives. An award will be made to the applicant whose application best meets the requirements of this NOFO. IWPR reserves the right to fund any or none of the applications submitted.

Application Deadline: COB (EST) March 26, 2021

IWPR will confirm receipt of all proposals and their eligibility. 

Principals only. No calls please. Women and minorities encouraged to apply. Only those who have been selected for interviews will be contacted. IWPR will never ask for payment for recruitment.

This position description is not an exhaustive list of all functions that the incumbent is expected to perform, but is instead a summary of the primary responsibilities and requirements of the job. The incumbent may be asked to perform duties not included in this position description. IWPR reserves the right to revise position descriptions at any time based on changes to the required job responsibilities. Staff will be informed of any changes to their job responsibilities.

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