Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
Nigel Hoyow, president of the Jamaica Amateur Radio Association (JARA), has stated that there was a deficiency in young amateur radio operators (ham) due to the fact that the current system operates under Morse code, a method which is long outdated.
Hoyow made the comment at a handing over ceremony at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management in Kingston on Thursday.
The Canadian International Development Agency and the Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund made the donation of telecommunications equipment to JARA.
"It goes without saying that the old operators are phasing out, youngsters such as the ones from the physics department at the University of the West Indies (UWI) are technologically advanced and hence require more recent systems. Many of these young operators have migrated to other countries such as Canada and the United States due to the Morse code, it is stifling our growth," he told The Gleaner.
Morse code is a requirement from the Spectrum Management Agency (SMA) to receive the training to attain an amateur training licence.
"Youngsters that are in the physics department at UWI, and even sixth-form students are having difficulties in an attaining amateur radio licence because of Morse code being a requirement. It is no longer being used in radio communication throughout the world," he added.
The SMA regulates amateur radio operation in Jamaica and issues a licence to anyone who sits the exam. Morse code is a requirement for this exam.
Gerald Burton, operations manager of JARA, said the SMA had sent a request to the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology to remove the Morse Code Act from being a requirement to attain the amateur radio licence. It was sent in 2005 and since then there has been no response.
When contacted, Minister Phillip Paulwell said he was not aware of the request and would seek more information.
Amateur radio operators currently operate at five vantage points across the island, the additional two units that were donated at the ceremony will be placed in St Thomas and Westmoreland. The equipment is in commemoration of the 'Telecommunications Infrastructure Strengthening Project for Emergency Communications and Early Warning Systems Efficacy' Project.
"In the case of a hurricane, they can send messages of any affected communities to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and to other vantage points such as the centre in Miami and across the island, to name a few. Nothing has been done since the SMA sent the request in 2005 and that is stifling the growth of amateur radio in Jamaica," Burton added.