Jack Dunigan, 5X7JD, is my first guest blogger. He is the Senior Management Leader of Aidchild, Inc., a project providing a home for orphans living with AIDS in Uganda. His ham radio blog is called Ham Radio Safari. Thanks, Jack!
I came to Uganda in October from the the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean where I had earned callsign NP2OR, a U.S. General Class amateur radio license. I made a pre-move trip here in June and began the license process then, filing application and associated paperwork then. It turned out to be a waste of time. When I moved here in October, I checked with the Uganda Communications Commission with whom I had filed and discovered they had lost the paperwork. “Would I mind starting over?”
Well, I didn’t really have any choice and sharp rebukes at those personnel who might have mislaid the application would have only delayed everything. So, I began again. I had to write a cover letter, which must contain the over-the-top courtesies and deferential language most Americans find artificially sweet and out of place in business correspondence. Nonetheless, its goes a long way here to recognize the authority and position of the officers who will expedite your application. They also asked for specifics of the radio gear. So I provided make and model info, a description of the antenna, and the power output requested.
The most difficult part was the requirement to supply geographic coordinates. I had no idea what they might be. I knew I could find it on the Internet, but Internet access is so excruciatingly slow it seemed a daunting task.
No one I could find had GPS and I am doubtful anything other than a very sophisticated sytem will work here anyway. So I logged on and began the search. It was actually harder than I thought. Were I in the U.S. or Europe, I could have nailed it down in a hurry. But Africa is tougher. After some searching I found a website that specified the coordinates for Masaka, the city where I live. It wasn’t precisely on the dot where the station would be but here in Uganda, close enough is close enough. So I wrote them in, filled in the other details, and took in all the paperwork.
The clerk who helped me was very efficient and friendly. He shot a photocopy of my U.S. license and asked what callsign I would like. This took me by surprise. He suggested I could have my initials to which I readily agreed. He told me there would have to be a site inspection of the radio shack and antenna installation. I didn’t actually have the antenna up yet, but figured I could do so before the inspector arrived. I left the paperwork there, and hoped for the best. I hoped I could get a license within a month.
Three days later I was in the car on my way out of Kampala, the capital city, driving back to Masaka when my mobile phone rang. The young lady on the line told me I could come in and pick up my license. I wondered about the site inspection, which had not happened, but did not ask. Its better not to confuse things with procedures. I was a licensed Uganda Amatuer Radio operator—callsign 5X7JD!
The promised inspector has never showed up and it is extremely unlikely one ever will. I guess because Masaka is 125 kilometers from the Communications Commission office and no one has a car. The license fee is $63 USD a year so there’s not enough money in that for the commission to pay for transport to the site, so they just won’t bother.
There was one apparent complication with the license. When I received it, there was a specification that I was authorized to use code only. I must confess I do not know Morse code. My license in the States came after the code requirement was dropped and I did not, have not learned it. So, we made another trip to the Commission office to see if it could be changed. I discovered that no one there—not even the Chief Commissioner himself—had any idea that the designation they had entered into my license limited me to code transmissions.
In fact, they weren’t familiar with the idea of emission types. It became a delight to educate those in the office, and they have asked me to return and conduct a seminar for the staff on amateur radio! I will be going to the office this week to set it up. I would like to teach more Ugandans about amateur radio. I have already started corresponding with a local engineering student who saw my blog and has asked for help. I am pleased to offer it. We are all Elmers as we are being Elmered.