Army to get instant messaging

The U.S. Army will use Bantu Inc.'s Instant Messaging for its Army Knowledge Online Web portal, which is expected to draw 3 million users by 2003.

Army Knowledge Online (AKO) (www.us.army.mil) enables soldiers anywhere in the world to access Army information, news, education and training opportunities, knowledge centers and e-mail.

"Presence and [instant messaging] will be integral components of the Army's online knowledge-management initiative," said Col. Robert Coxe, Army chief technology officer, in a statement. "Bantu's highly secure tools will enable AKO users worldwide to share enterprise information instantly and easily in a fully encrypted environment."

Through Bantu's Presence Platform, icons will show portal members which colleagues are online and available to communicate. The AKO portal is described as one piece of the Army's effort to use information technology to spur innovation in services, processes and knowledge creation.

The service and Bantu announced the instant messaging deal in a written statement July 30 but declined to disclose the value of the contract.

Bantu's contract with the Army includes installation of instant messaging and the Presence Platform in the Army's secure environment to be accessed by both classified and unclassified personnel. Bantu will provide the same instant messaging services within the Army White Pages, a worldwide locator service providing contact information for anyone with an AKO account.

Bantu is based in Washington, D.C.

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