Dr Noluntu Mpekoa is a specialist in cybersecurity who uses her competencies in data security and analytics to develop enabling technologies for the state, industry partners and universities. Her passion for mentoring and empowering young people in the field of science and technology continues to be the ultimate drive in her career.
Dr Noluntu Mpekoa, research group leader at the CSIR Information and Cybersecurity Research Centre, specialises in mobile technologies and security, with an emphasis on designing and developing mobile solutions for governments to deliver electronic services and enhance access for their citizens. Mpekoa and her team are passionate about the development of mobile solutions that not only enhance the lives of citizens, but also support governments and enable them to overcome economic, social and environmental challenges.
“The question we seek to answer is, how do we strengthen the security of mobile applications and mobile devices such that users at all levels feel safe to use them. Technology is here to stay and, with it, the need for cybersecurity. There will always be a need for improved algorithms and techniques for detecting threats. The scope for innovations in information security – solutions that people can use to protect their data and information – is vast. Success for me and my team means developing and deploying home-grown cybersecurity tools and technologies to protect our information – that of government and that of private organisations,” says Mpekoa.
An academic start
Mpekoa’s career in information and technology started in the academic space when she was a lecturer at Walter Sisulu University in 2004, after she completed her BTech in information technology. She later completed her Master’s degree in information and communication technology with the Tshwane University of Technology. Her research interest in the development of electronic voting technologies necessitated her pursuit of a PhD with the Nelson Mandela University. In her thesis, she developed a framework that seeks to enable the implementation of electronic voting in South Africa, with the view of improving human voting experiences in the country.
“In the academic space, one is always expected to improve one’s skills and knowledge, so that’s what I did, completing my PhD in just two years,” she says. Besides her PhD, she counts as her career highlights, developing the framework for electronic voting in South Africa and receiving a Y-rating from the National Research Foundation.
Mpekoa lectured at various universities for more than 16 years and, through her mentorship, she was able to pass down invaluable knowledge to many young people around the country. Witnessing her mentees graduating and succeeding in their careers has been one of the most awarding experiences on her journey.
Current position: CSIR research group leader
Career type: Data security and analytics researcher
Current research interest: Mobile technologies, mobile voting services and mobile security
Education: MTech (Information Technology), Tshwane University of Technology, 2014 and PhD (Information Technology), Nelson Mandela University, 2017