Ham Radio News: Radio Technology for Isolated Communities

Far from a needless luxury, radio technology can be key to facilitating communications in isolated communities of Central America.


| July/August 1979



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Isolated communities in Central America derive great benefit from radio technology. Here a neophyte Mayan CB operator receives some medical good news.


PHOTO: PLENTY

Those of us who want to retreat from the over-development that's taken place in our own rich nations are also well aware that the opposite problem exists in many poorer countries below North America's southern border.

The majority of the world's people would gladly swap their situation for ours—and few of us "wealthier" folks would want to retreat all the way back to the 50% infant mortality, insufficient food, and chronic illness still found in some "undeveloped" lands. The choice is not "All technology or none," but rather "Which technologies are appropriate, both for human beings and for the other inhabitants of our small planet?"

In order to improve the quality of life in less developed nations, it's usually necessary first to supply the basic physical needs: nutritious food, pure water, and health care. It might not seem that radio technology is appropriate during this early stage of the development process, but some recent work in isolated communities of two Central American countries indicates that electronic communication can be of help.

Besides radio's ability to provide a high return in human terms for the amount of capital invested, it also has little environmental impact and can be used by folks who aren't able to read or write—a definite advantage in areas where literacy isn't widespread.

Radio Saves Lives

When an earthquake shook Guatemala in February 1976, a group from PLENTY—the relief organization run by The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee—went down to help the Guatemalans rebuild. After the emergency was over, Farm folks remained to work with the local Mayan people on some of the area's longstanding, basic problems.

Among those who stayed were hams from The Farm's radio crew, who used their equipment to keep relief workers in touch with relatives back in Tennessee. Later, as these people became more deeply involved with the problems of the Indians, they sensed other ways that radio could be of value. During the next three years, the Tennessee group helped to bring several new communication systems into existence. Of prime importance were two emergency radios that employed standard CB transceivers.





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