Navy builds virtual community
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- Jan 21, 2001
The Navy has developed a Web portal to offer surface warfare officers
(SWOs) deployed worldwide easy access to information of personal and professional
The portal, SWONet, will include links to hometown news, career and
financial counseling, educational resources and other naval resources, and
will serve as a virtual community for the Navy's surface warfare officers
around the globe.
The Navy believes this virtual community will help improve retention
rates, particularly among the younger officers, said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Negus,
head of the SWO plans and policy department.
About 8,700 officerson ships and ashorewill use SWONet, Negus
said. The portal uses specialized search engines equipped with intelligent
agents to ease navigation and to manage relevant information. The officers
can access resources such as hometown news, private and public chat sessions,
and calendars of events for upcoming deployment destinations.
In a test run, the Navy demonstrated SWONet to officers in Norfolk,
Va., San Diego and Newport, R.I. "Then we used their feedback in the development
of the site," Negus said. "The junior officers asked for ways to enhance
their professional capabilities on day-to-day operations like information
sharing from the training centers and schools. They were very interested
Electronic business solutions provider Integic Corp., in conjunction
with Columbia Research Corp. and Edelman Financial Services Inc., built
the SWONet portal (www.swonet.com). The Navy will pay about $2 million
a year to maintain the site.
Integic and its partners began working on the project last August, with
the goal of providing surface warfare officers with an online resource where
they could collaborate and help each other out, said Jim Fraley, Integic's
SWONet project manager.
"There's a lot of information out there, and we categorize and organize
it," Fraley said. "When you're on a ship, there's limited bandwidth, and
you can't be jumping all over the place to different sites. This is one-stop
shopping for information."
In addition to providing personalized news and professional resources,
SWONet serves as a centralized e-mail system where officers can search for
specific people, members of their year group or someone in a specific duty
position to find information or advice, Fraley said.
"That way, I can talk about the problems I'm seeing, ask if you are
seeing them, too, and what you're doing about them, especially if I'm new
to a job," Fraley said. "They can't do that today."
And although a lot of information is already available on the Web, the
portal will make it much easier to find.
"Now, rather than wasting time surfing the Web, an officer can have
content awaiting him or her at their personalized SWONet portal," said Norman
Hubbs, vice president of Integic's e-government practice.
In addition, Navy-related information has been categorized and organized
to improve its accessibility. Then, while officers attend to shipboard
duties, SWONet constantly collects information and delivers it to their
private SWONet portals, Hubbs said.
Fraley said another popular feature is the classifieds section, through
which naval officers can do business with each other, including finding
someone to sublet an apartment or house or pick up a car lease if they
are being sent to a remote location.
Negus and Fraley agreed that SWONet is a work in progress. There has
already been talk about adding a feature so officers can synchronize with
the portal via their handheld computers, but time will tell what the next
necessary addition will be.
To help the site evolve, users can submit ideas through a concierge service
on the site, Negus said.