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New America Foundation Scales Up Open Technology Efforts

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, April 26 2012

The New America Foundation today announced the launch of the Open Technology Institute, billed as a center for impartial research, open discourse, innovative fieldwork, and new tech development related to the issues of Internet freedom and open technology. It's a scaling-up of the foundation's Open Technology Initiative, which did more or less the same thing.

Sascha Meinrath, who worked on similar projects — most famously so-called "circumvention technology" projects like the State Department-backed "Internet in a suitcase" — while also working on that initiative, will head up the new institute as a vice president at New America.

In an email, Meinrath explained that the "Initiative" had grown from an initial staff of around 3 to well over 40 people working on over 20 different projects.

"OTI believes that everyone has the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," Meinrath said in a statement. "In the 21st Century, this universal human right must extend to the Internet and include access to open technologies and platforms."

The New America Foundation, where Google executive Eric Schmidt chairs the board of directors, is a nonpartisan public policy institute that explores domestic, economic and fiscal issues as well as issues related to international affairs, national security, technology and innovation. The institute's Open Technology Initiative, founded in 2009, conducted research on alternatives to spectrum auctions for frequency allocation and assignment that was used by National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and White House staff to draft new federal policy. The initiative also coordinated the MeasurementLab.net project to advance network research and provide the public with useful information about their broadband connections, and worked with the White House and Senators' offices to include investment in telecommunications infrastructure in the 2010 omnibus transportation bill.

Meinrath has led the "Internet in a suitcase" project, a State Department-funded effort to allow wireless communication that could circumvent national censorship. He coordinates the Open Source Wireless Coalition and is the co-founder and president of the CUWiN Foundation, a leading open-source wireless project.

"The Internet is the world's public square, where we must continue to defend liberty and access," Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation, said in a statement. "As we've seen in the Arab Spring, we have compelling reasons to understand and advance the essential role the Internet plays in politics and society throughout the world."

This post has been updated.

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