Is ham radio a rich white mans folly? The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. You may disagree with them and that is your prerogative and you are more than welcome to discuss them ad nausium to your hearts content.
So is ham radio a rich white mans folly. Mostly I think it is, even if the two of the largest ham populations in the world are Indonesia and Japan, the way we in the west look at and treat ham radio could be described as nothing more than pure folly.
When you look at a 24 hour plot of FT8 activity, there are a couple of very glaring observations to be made. The most obvious being, there is little to no activity coming out of almost all of Africa. Now there are probably many reasons why that is the case. It is poor, well, lots of South America is poor also and they have people on the bands, same can be said for Indonesia and some of the former Soviet states. So low socioeconomic prospects is not the sole issue here.
War and political unrest in some of those countries would certainly account for some of those countries, but what about the more stable and economically prosperous? Well obviously somethings are amiss, but what can we in the west do about it. And this is where we start to get into the folly territory.
See, we in the west would rather spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on sending people to a rock in the middle of nowhere and then buy $5 qsl cards to help pay for it than we would sending a small delegation to an African country and setting up a radio club and assisting people getting licensed in a major university, something that would have a lasting effect on the bands.
Many people, particularly in the USA came to ham radio via uni radio clubs and electronics degree courses. But they did not just come to that by pure matter of miracle or divine intervention. No, it took some grey beard who had the interest already to get things rolling. In other words, it required a seed. And in many African universities, its that seed that is missing in getting things started.
And that is where we all come in. Rather than fund follies and spend half a million dollars going to some stupid island whose only inhabitants are sea birds, perhaps we could use a fraction of that money and finance outreach to some place with no ham radio population and get them started. And getting them started in the engineering departments of universities seems like a very good place to start, followed by STEM programs in high schools using things like WSPR, which is cheap and provides learning opportunities in many facets of ham radio, from propagation to radio architecture and design.
Growth in ham radio is not going to come from the west and its not going to come from within our own borders. Though more hams in our own countries is always great, its not where the main growth in the hobby is going to come from, it is going to come from the developing world and places without much of a ham population.
So perhaps some of the major radio societies across the world, the ARRL, RSGB, JARL, WIA, DARC etc etc could combine forces and start investigating the probability of success and logistics of paying a team of say 4 to undertake licensing and club building activities in African universities and even supply gear. The QRP Labs QSX is not far away from being released, so good radio gear does not have to cost an arm and a leg. And electronics students would have no problem assembling them and building antenna etc to put them on the air. A 4 man team being sent to a capital city uni for a month would not cost much more than $50K and I think that would be money well spend.