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Research Questions

  1. Is DRL effectively managing its Internet freedom portfolio and implementing its stated strategy?
  2. What is the expected value of DRL's Internet freedom portfolio, and how is it performing?

The struggle between those promoting Internet freedom and those trying to control and monitor the Internet is a fast-paced game of cat and mouse, and the DRL Internet freedom program seeks to fund projects that promote preserving the open character of the Internet. Employing portfolio analysis techniques, the authors assessed DRL's Internet freedom portfolio for fiscal year 2012–2013. The assessment showed good alignment between the State Department's strategy and the cumulative effect of the 18 funded projects. Additionally, the portfolio was assessed to be well balanced with an unrealized potential for supporting emergent State Department needs in enlarging political space within authoritarian regimes. The assessment revealed that the investment in developing Internet freedom capacity and capabilities would likely have residual value beyond the portfolio's funded lifespan, with positive, but indirect, connections to civic freedom. Moreover, promoting Internet freedom appears to be a cost-imposing strategy that simultaneously aligns well with both U.S. values and interests, pressuring authoritarian rivals to either accept a free and open Internet or devote additional security resources to control or repress Internet activities. Finally, the authors determined that the value of such analysis is best realized over multiple stages of the portfolio's lifecycle. Among the authors' recommendations were for DRL to enhance the synergy within the portfolio and among its grantees and to maintain a relatively balanced Internet freedom strategy that includes projects working on access, anonymity, awareness, and advocacy.

Key Findings

DRL's Portfolio Is Balanced and Has Potential for Even More Value

  • This assessment showed good alignment between the State Department's strategy and the cumulative effect of the 18 funded projects.
  • The portfolio was well balanced with a healthy mix of objectives and approaches. Risk seemed appropriate and prudent, with a suitable degree of failure tolerance spread across the portfolio and counterbalanced by a significant investment in lower-risk projects.
  • The portfolio program's total effect is greatly enhanced by the interaction and collaboration between implementers.
  • The investment in developing Internet freedom capacity and capabilities would likely have residual value beyond the portfolio's funded lifespan, with positive, but indirect, connections to civic freedom. Internet freedom initiatives also have the potential to be a high-leverage national security tool for democratic open societies, with cost-imposing characteristics against authoritarian regimes.

Recommendations

  • Enhance the synergy within the portfolio and among its grantees.
  • Maintain a relatively balanced Internet freedom strategy that includes projects working on access, anonymity, awareness, and advocacy.
  • Consider a resourcing mechanism for contingency tasking.
  • Consider this assessment as a rigorous first look at the portfolio, but to fully realize its value, this process should be repeated over time.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Methodology for Assessing the Portfolio

  • Chapter Three

    Portfolio Performance

  • Chapter Four

    Portfolio Balance and Synergy

  • Chapter Five

    Additional Observations

  • Chapter Six

    Findings, Recommendations, and Conclusions

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

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