Health Ministry adopts instant messaging

In a rare top-down instant messaging deployment, the Ministry of Health is rolling out Lotus Sametime to staff in 15 offices.

The Ministry of Health is about to roll out instant messaging to all staff following a six-month trial.

The ministry has 15 offices around New Zealand and wants a more cost-effective way for staff to keep in touch, according to acting CIO Denis Black.

"The move is in response to an information systems strategic plan, which called for better communication tools and ways to assist in reducing internal emails," says Black in a written statement.

The ministry will use IBM's Lotus Sametime, for its security benefits, rather than any of the free instant message applications. As Computerworld Online reported last week, most IM platforms are deployed by end users rather than in a co-ordinated effort by IT departments. Of those that are deployed formally rather than informally, Sametime claims the lion's share--73%--of the market, according to Fortune magazine.

Black hopes to save costs on video and phone conferencing by using Sametime's group messaging capability.

Last year, Lotus's messaging solutions head, Ken Bisconti, told Computerworld Online that General Electric users conduct about 14,000 "Quick Place" meetings a day using Sametime's secure chat function feature.

"It lets you know when someone else is online, you can engage in electronic meetings and application sharing as well as data sharing." Because Sametime runs on Lotus Notes, it ties in with email received by Notes users.

"If you receive an email from someone you can immediately see if they're online at that time and choose to reply in real time via Sametime."

MoH's Black hopes to roll out the IM solution to all ministry employees in the next three to six months.

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