MTN South Africa takes new AI step as it launches chatbot

4th December 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

MTN South Africa takes new AI step as it launches chatbot


Telecommunications group MTN South Africa has unveiled its internally launched employee Artificial Intelligence- (AI-) driven chatbot, which will ultimately redefine customer engagement and set new standards for customer service – and is a pivotal proof point in MTN’s AI strategy.

SiYa, inspired by Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, who is renowned for embodying unity and a service mentality, serves as the foundation for what customers can anticipate from MTN in 2024.

“By choosing the name SiYa, MTN aim to capture the essence of unity, harmony and effective communication that has become synonymous with our national rugby team, a team that MTN is deeply proud to support, as the principal sponsor,” said MTN South Africa CEO Charles Molapisi.

This emerges as MTN works to embed AI and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in its strategy.

“In an era defined by data-driven decision-making and digital transformation, MTN’s AI ambition statement is clear: by harnessing the full potential of our data, we will unlock new sources of revenue while improving margins through smart automation. With the right governance model in place, we will take bold steps toward our ambitious vision of becoming a true digital platform business by the year 2025,” he said.

MTN South Africa’s strategic shift encompasses several key areas, including AI APIs to enable developers to seamlessly integrate AI features into applications, orchestrating AI for both internal and external monetisation; digital assistants, which will mimic human conversation to perform a variety of tasks and services, improving efficiency and user experience; robotics process automation, which streamlines operations by automating tasks, reducing manual work, enhancing accuracy and boosting productivity; and machine learning, which will allow for autonomous learning through predictive and prescriptive analytics, paving the way for more data-driven decisions.

SiYa, which can be accessed through the Microsoft Teams app, will assist employees with inquiries, offer information on company policies and share insights from MTN’s knowledge base, with the knowledge gained from SiYa’s interactions set to be instrumental in shaping the future of customer engagement at MTN.

As SiYa learns and evolves through interactions, users can expect to see him take on more roles and become increasingly helpful.

The new chatbot also opens up employee-company interactions, empowers employees to engage in meaningful conversations while managing their daily activities and is designed to offer immediate, contextually relevant support to employees, enhancing their experiences and reducing the friction often associated with traditional interactions.

“SiYa’s growth does not stop with employees; he evolves in tandem with the learning and development of the chatbot. This dynamic progression will eventually enable SiYa to guide customers in making device purchases and seamlessly collaborate with human advisers, marking a significant departure from conventional processes,” said Molapisi.

“For MTN, significant AI opportunities lie in customer value management, network operations and customer service, areas that are crucial for improving customer experience, reducing costs, and driving revenue growth,” he continued.

While MTN’s AI strategy builds on existing programmes that already drive six of the eight foundational capabilities required to become AI-native, the company recognises the need for a step change in AI culture, AI ethics, AI studio funding and AI skills development.

MTN South Africa’s roadmap includes AI to drive efficiency and core revenue growth while enhancing both customer and employee experiences.

“AI as a service intends to create and monetise solutions, making them accessible to competitors and similar businesses. Meanwhile, AI as a solution seeks to develop AI solutions that complement core business offerings and cater to consumer and enterprise needs.

“By harnessing the power of AI and APIs, we are not only future-proofing our operations but ensuring that our customers, both internal and external, can look forward to a more streamlined, efficient, and data-driven experience,” Molapisi concluded.