Reinvention of Amateur Radio
Lack of growth in radio amateur numbers, and how to make Amateur Radio attractive and relevant to young people, is very much on the minds of many International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member societies, including the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA). A common practice is for any organisation, commercial or otherwise, to reinvent itself about every 10 to 20 years. Think about this process that happens in the business world, and with community and social activities.
Jim Linton - VK3PC
In Australia, we introduced the Limited licence – fondly dubbed the Z-call, after the first callsign suffix block issued – then the Novice, and later, the Foundation licence. These responded to the need for reinvention in their eras. That time has come again, only more quickly, driven by the exponential growth in technology. A few years ago, the WIA began work with the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), to plan a future for Amateur Radio. Recently, the WIA consulted widely with members and non-members on the future Licence Condition Determination (LCD). A review and reform of the LCD is now expected to begin soon, to be finalised in 2018. Keeping in mind that a new LCD could remove the barriers that hamper the use of existing and future technologies, we must also broaden the scope of Amateur Radio to make it an obvious choice for today’s tech-savvy young people and for future generations.
It’s time for current radio amateurs to more than ever think about the future, and take action to recruit technically-minded or inquisitive people interested in exploring what the dynamic and diverse activities Amateur Radio offers now, and will continue to develop in the years ahead.
The recent IARU Region 1 General Conference held a workshop on ‘The Future of Amateur Radio’, and discussed many things that the WIA has been exploring to make the hobby more attractive and relevant to today’s technology-rich society. The Region 1 workshop has provided many ideas from member societies in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Northern Asia. Reprising the Region 1 initiative, "Attracting youth to Amateur Radio" will be the theme for the late 2018 Conference of IARU Region 3, comprising member societies across Asia and the Pacific.
The WIA agrees with the two challenges that came out of the Region 1 workshop.
Increasing the inflow to Amateur Radio – particularly from young people
Making member societies the “must join” organisations for all radio amateurs.
A clear message from the workshop was that, attracting young people needs to be led by young people. This meant that the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, for example, must be driven by young people.
At the Region 1 Conference, IARU Region 3 Director, Peter Young VK3MV, spoke about the School Amateur Radio Club Net, showcasing its website (www.sarcnet.org) as a resource centre. He also mentioned the STEM – science, technology, engineering, maths – connection to Amateur Radio and how radio amateurs can assist teachers in schools with the technical details and leave the teaching to the professionals. The WIA may consider that things like experimentation, research and pioneering – things Amateur Radio was widely known for once, but now overshadowed by techno-information overload – could be revived with a broader modern appeal for the hobby.
At the same time, Amateur Radio has to be fun, a way of learning in a classroom setting and through self-learning, and broadened to embrace pursuits such as IT-wireless, radio astronomy, radio control, mesh networks and the like.
The Australian Government’s support of innovation, the STEM initiative in education, the newly-launched national space agency, as well as existing Maker activities, are all potential pluses for Amateur Radio. With those dynamic potential changes, Amateur Radio could be a larger and meaningful part of the community, instead of retreating to a fading 'thing' of the past.
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