Army portal to deliver messaging apps

Army portal to deliver messaging apps

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

The Army will roll out instant messaging next month as part of its Army Knowledge Online intranet, using an encrypted Web application that can operate across multiple platforms.

The app, designed by Bantu Inc. of Washington, will let soldiers and officers build buddy lists and communicate instantaneously when another user is online.

From the AKO portal, Army personnel can also link to instant messaging apps from America Online Inc. and Yahoo Inc. when they need to interact with outside contractors or associates.

Speed things up

Top Army officials requested instant messaging, partly as a way to quicken decision-making and workflow, said Lt. Col. Roderick K. Wade, chief of Army Knowledge Online. The system can be accessed from many operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Unix and Linux.


'This isn't just a nice thing to have for young soldiers. They really expect it. They don't expect the Army to be using carbon paper with typewriters.'
'LT. COL. RODERICK K. WADE
Another feature of the Bantu app the Army liked, Wade said, was that it is the only encrypted Web instant messaging app that operates across different platforms, including wireless devices.

'This isn't just a nice thing to have for young soldiers,' Wade said. 'They really expect it. They don't expect the Army to be using carbon paper with typewriters.'

Another software product that the Army will roll out is Dynamo Scenario Server from the Art Technology Group of Cambridge, Mass., Wade said. The personalization software will give Army personnel the ability to target bulk messaging to a specific command, job position or subject matter.

Targeted messages

'Right now, we can't target specific subsets of the Army,' Wade said. 'This will allow us to send stuff based on who you are, instead of to everybody.'

It works similarly to personalization software used by online vendors such as Amazon.com, Wade said. For example, if a person often logs on to Amazon to buy science fiction books, the company recommends additional science fiction titles each time the user logs on.

The new features will make the portal more robust, Army officials said. There are currently 167,000 soldiers'out of 1.5 million'who have accounts on Army Knowledge Online. By next year, the AKO office has been told that the portal must be scaled to handle the entire Army'from active duty, Reserve and National Guard forces to civilian employees, Wade said.

The directive is coming from the top and is a part of a massive information technology transformation. A second site for server maintenance must be added to make this happen, he said.

David Borland, the Army's deputy chief information officer and vice director of information systems for command, control, communications and computers, said the portal is part of his definition of knowledge management.

'Knowledge management is an integrated, systematic approach to identify, catalog, store and make available all the information and knowledge that all of our Army people generate'to put it in a place where people can get it,' Borland said. 'The objective is to give our decision makers'which is everybody'the ability to make better, smarter and faster decisions.'

Later this year, Lt. Gen. Peter M. Cuviello, the Army's CIO, will send out a letter to soldiers promoting the benefits of using the intranet. He will encourage soldiers to establish accounts, Wade said, so they can be just a mouse click away from such features as free e-mail.

The portal will have Army news articles, banking information, white pages where soldiers can look up each other regardless of where they are deployed, three search engines of the .mil domain and hundreds of links. AKO also features functional applications such as the tracking of deployment days, a job bank and topical information that can be customized to the user.

In October, soldiers will be able to look at their official file, which includes evaluation reports and awards. Some channels have links to schools, retirement information, noncommissioned officer training, veteran information and eArmyU, the distance learning portal that the Army launched in January.

Consolidation

AKO is set up similar to My.AirForce.mil. The Air Force portal consolidates hundreds of resources'from payroll services to information on benefits'into a single point of entry. My Air Force also features a white pages database.

The Navy has taken a different approach in establishing a single network for the Navy and Marine Corps that will link more than 360,000 desktop PCs. Under the $6.9 billion outsourcing contract for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, awarded last year to Electronic Data Systems Corp., the service will purchase IT as if it were a utility.

EDS will provide technology upgrades, hardware and software, technical support, e-mail service, training and security services for a per-seat charge, which currently averages $3,412 per year.

In the end, NMCI, a managed service for voice, video and data information exchange, will consolidate 200 networks into one intranet.

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