Hivos International

Internet Freedom

In late 2012, Hivos started implementing the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) - supported under the Freedom Online Coalition - to provide an answer to a range of emerging threats to internet freedom.


Digital Defenders Partnership coordinates emergency support and builds emergency response capacity for the internet’s critical users, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists, whenever and wherever they are under threat. It also facilitates access to internet in countries where the internet is not free or not accessible. DDP uses three main tools: grant making, rapid response and the Digital Integrity Fellowship.


  1. Increased safety for critical internet users under threat or attack

  2. Increased capacity of the digital emergency response network


The DDP is a grant-making mechanism providing support to organisations and individuals working in the digital emergency field. The DDP provides three types of grants:

Emergency Grants to critical internet users facing an urgent digital emergency in internet repressive environments. These grants provide direct (legal) advice and financial and other support to individuals with emergencies caused by cyber attacks, compromised  accounts and devices, and lack of secure connections.

Sustainable Emergency Grants aimed at providing advice and support to organisations suffering from digital attacks and seeking to improve their digital security apparatus, set up temporary helpdesks or test and research specific threats.

Capacity Building Grants are longer-term grants for institutional support of organizations in Internet repressive countries, performing a security audit, staff training, or a software migration to secure systems. 

Strategic Partnerships In 2016, DDP started a strategic partnership with three organisations: Media Legal Defence Initiative, Front Line Defenders and Virtual Road, each of which fulfils a specific need (legal defence, regional/physical safety and infrastructural responses) for critical Internet users. Together, we are able to provide rapid, comprehensive emergency response.

Applications for emergency and direct support grants can be submitted by completing the online grant application format on the DDP website. Potential grantees for strategic grants can submit their proposal to the DDP secretariat via

Digital Emergency Support

The DDP undertakes various brokering activities. If you are experiencing a digital emergency, the DDP can provide direct assistance to mitigate the digital threat or can broker third party intervention from an extensive network of lawyers, technical specialists and training organisations with specific experience in this area.

The Rapid Responders Network

Digital Defenders Partnership coordinates the Rapid Responders Network (RaReNet), which consists of a global team of experts and responders in the Internet world. This network focuses on securing critical internet users’ safety online in the following ways: 

  • identification of expertise and trusted nodes (regional/global)
  • mapping of needs and gaps; (regional/global)
  • sharing experience and best practices (regional)
  • gaining greater understanding of specific threats in local contexts (regional)
  • working on collaborative projects to improve digital emergency response

Digital Integrity Fellowship

In 2015, DDP launched the Digital Integrity Fellowship, which aims to contribute to sustainable security for human rights organisations in repressive countries. Carefully selected organisations in repressive countries will undergo a fully customised organisational digital safety and security transition over the period of 8 to15 months, guided by experienced digital security experts.

Goals of this programme:

  • To scale-up the digital security capacity and information integrity of organisations that support human rights defenders and critical social activists who are exercising their rights to freedom of expression online.
  • To assist digital security Fellows (trainers and consultants) to work within these organisations.
  • To complement the existing network of person-to-person assistance and training, while bringing in technical expertise traditionally outside the reach of these organisations.

Tools, guides and research

In addition to providing grants and brokering activities, the programme also provides tools, guides and research. In summer 2014, DDP and several partners in the field launched the Digital First Aid Kit, a self-diagnostic tool that helps you determine how to mitigate digital threats.

The DDP was initiated by the Freedom Online Coalition and is currently a basketfund of 6 governments; Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Canada and Latvia. DDP is a neutral and independent entity from its donor countries, managed by Hivos.