Instant messaging, loud and clear

Instant messaging is a hit at the Voice of America, which uses the technology to communicate quickly around the clock.

The International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which provides the engineering support for government-funded international broadcast services, signed a one-year contract with Bantu Inc. to deliver a secure enterprise instant messaging solution.

The reason is simple, according to IBB engineers: Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, engineers have become increasingly concerned about their networks' ability to function in an emergency.

Until now, engineers worldwide had to pick up a telephone or rely on e-mail to communicate. And those systems could fail, leaving a station unable to broadcast or even notify the Washington, D.C., headquarters.

"The instant messaging system provides a means of communications for engineers who are working at various control centers and relay centers," said one IBB engineer, who asked to remain anonymous.

In addition to the Voice of America, IBB provides the engineering support for Radio Free Europe; Radio Liberty, which broadcasts to Central and Eastern Europe; Radio Marti, which broadcasts to Cuba; Radio Sawa, which broadcasts in Arabic to the Middle East; and Radio Farda, the Persian-language service broadcasting to Iran.

All of these networks broadcast 24 hours a day and use relay stations to send their programming to the targeted country. The IBB must make sure its programs, broadcast in 53 languages, do not hit a snag.

Bantu's instant messaging makes it possible for engineers to communicate in real time, hold conferences and collaborate to resolve emergencies that could shut down programs or compromise broadcast continuity. To use it, they go to a Web site and automatically access Bantu's system, which hosts the instant messaging tool.

"They can make it accessible to all engineers across the world or just one or two," said Larry Schlang, Bantu's president and chief executive officer. In addition, engineers with remote access to the Web can work from other locations if necessary.

Bantu's customers include the Army, Navy, Air Force and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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