ACSA intensifies tech deployment at SA airports

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 14 Jul 2023
ACSA CIO Mthokozisi Mncwabe.
ACSA CIO Mthokozisi Mncwabe.

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) is looking to tap into emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to boost efficiency and customer experience at airports.

In a statement today, the state-owned company says a number of technology projects and initiatives are in the pipeline.

Founded in 1993, ACSA operates nine of South Africa’s airports.

ACSA CIO Mthokozisi Mncwabe notes the need to digitalise the passenger experience, the airport environment and ACSA’s operational processes has been identified as a core strategic focus for the business.

As such, he adds, ACSA’s vision around technology supports its organisational strategy and is based on the following pillars: building digital infrastructure, improving the passenger and customer experience, digital innovation and how it will enrich the front-end customer experience, and cyber security.

“We are busy with a number of initiatives that will harness the power of artificial intelligence and robotics to drive self-service functionality through the various touchpoints at ACSA’s airports,” Mncwabe says.

“For example, we are looking to introduce robotics to enhance the customer experience in line with a global trend that is seeing increased use of this technology for the delivery of retail and food and beverage services at airports.”

Similarly, ACSA says it is also looking to introduce a biometrics-driven border control system in a project that is being completed jointly with the Department of Home Affairs.

The project will focus on security processing systems that use facial recognition capabilities or biometric information embedded in a barcode in each passenger’s passport.

Mncwabe explains that one of the flagship projects ACSA is working on is a R150 million initiative with Microsoft to create a personalised customer experience, by leveraging technology to get to know its customers.

“We are looking to create a platform that will integrate all the various customer services that currently operate in siloes. We want to use this platform to bring them altogether into one user interface.

“The idea is that multiple services, such as booking a flight, a car or a hotel will be aggregated and accessed through a single platform and user interface.”

According to Mncwabe, the project is dependent on the introduction of AI technology that will facilitate and assist with data analysis and personalisation, which is in line with the motto ‘know you better, serve you better’.

“At the moment, we are engaging with a number of service providers to ultimately empower the customer by delivering a platform that is user-friendly and easy to understand. We will also continue to strengthen digital integration across all of our operations in order to improve efficiency and enhance the experience of our airports for all stakeholders, especially passengers.”

He explains that cyber security plays an integral part in ACSA’s technology drive, with the company having adopted a zero trust architecture approach, leveraging existing investments and adopting a cyber security mesh architecture.

“Unfortunately, cyber security is always a game of catch-up, as hackers are dedicated and committed to constantly finding and exploiting new vulnerabilities. The cyber threat landscape continues to evolve in sophistication and frequency of attack, so it is impossible to always defend against malicious activity.

“However, at the very least, organisations must ensure their security systems are robust and up to date in terms of the latest security patches. It is important to note that ACSA has significantly improved its cyber and information security maturity by focusing on people, processes and technology.”

He adds the key objectives of ACSA’s strategy are to adopt and leverage appropriate technology in order to enhance the customer experience and operational efficiency, while simultaneously protecting its systems and information.

“Our IT capabilities are intended to support our value creation process through the delivery of a consistently positive customer experience, paperless travel, automated cost management, greater efficiency, revenue diversification and, ultimately, business growth.”