Islands on the Air (IOTA) celebrated its 50th anniversary as a premier DX programme in July 2014, under the care of the RSGB and the IOTA manager, Roger Balister G3KMA. The last fifty years has seen the programme grow to 2,500 active island chasers and approximately 15,000 more casual participants. It is perhaps second in scale and scope to the DXCC award; indeed, many would argue it is a step beyond that programme. The 50th Anniversary event in Windsor was very successful, with enthusiasts travelling from the UK and overseas to celebrate this important milestone in DX history.
Those close to it have been anxious to ensure the sustainability of the IOTA programme over the next 50 years and have spent some time reviewing the challenges and opportunities it faces. A number of issues have been identified: firstly, the heavy reliance of the programme on just a few key people; secondly, the need to ensure that IT support for the programme is modern and robust and will include online island credit submission akin to LoTW; and thirdly, a requirement for a friendlier and more accessible website which will be of greater use to both newcomers and the more experienced island chaser.
The review accepted without question that all island and participant databases should be preserved and that any changes should be backwards-compatible. In addition, it was important to seek ways to rejuvenate and ensure the sustainability of the programme. This vision we loosely called ‘New IOTA’. Over the summer, one particular pathway began to emerge. It was that of partnership rather than a top-down approach which had characterised some aspects of the programme’s management in the past. The RSGB Board is agreed that the IOTA team should be invited to establish a group to develop and implement the “New IOTA” concept, with the RSGB providing seed-corn finance and other appropriate support. This approach acknowledges that the strength of the programme lies with its national and international participants whom, we are assured, have the motivation, skills and enthusiasm to develop the programme and to promote it to its full potential. This way forward has the full support of the IOTA team and has been welcomed by the wider IOTA community both at home and abroad.
Our initial feedback is best summed up by Don Chamberlain MD, W9DC, who said:
I am excited that the RSGB is combining with IOTA enthusiasts around the world to create a ‘New IOTA’ program. Their efforts will resolve most existing QSL and submission issues and will encourage IOTA chasers to participate in this very prestigious and challenging award
Over the next nine months the group will be asked, through a market/user-led approach, to develop a plan for the ‘New IOTA’ programme to embrace management and governance, IT, data management and security, and a review of partnering options and any other relevant topics. It is envisaged that this will lead to a devolved structure, with a Memorandum of Understanding to clearly delineate the responsibilities of all parties.
The Society and the programme’s Management believe that the resulting governance structure, management processes and IT framework will ensure the IOTA programme is not only sustainable into the next years of the 21st century, but continues to grow and play the prominent role that it has done in Amateur Radio DXing and contest activity for the last fifty years.
John Gould G3WKL