Cyber defender Mamela Luthuli named IT Personality 2023

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 28 Nov 2023
IT Personality of the Year 2023: Mamela Luthuli, founder and CEO of Take Note IT.
IT Personality of the Year 2023: Mamela Luthuli, founder and CEO of Take Note IT.

The Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) has announced Mamela Luthuli, founder and CEO of cyber security firm Take Note IT, as the winner of the ICT sector’s coveted accolade − the IT Personality of the Year Award.

The 2023 winners were announced this morning at the IITPSA’s President’s Awards ceremony, in Illovo, Johannesburg.

The annual event marks its 66th anniversary this year, with the theme: “IT visionaries: Celebrating the ICT industry’s embrace of the future”.

The award recognises leaders in the ICT sector, and has grown in scope over the last 30 years, to include the Technology Excellence, Social Responsibility, Dynamism in ICT Youth and Distinguished Service in ICT awards.

Congratulating this year’s finalists and winners, IITPSA president Senele Goba said this year’s theme recognises professionals who drive ICT innovation and progress in SA.

“The theme was chosen because we recognise that the pace of change in the ICT sector has picked up. Some IT professionals have the vision and ability to see change coming and adapt accordingly.

“Among this year’s President’s Awards finalists and winners, we have exceptional ICT professionals who are not only adapting to change, but also pioneering change. They are driving digital innovation and progress. They are a shining example of the approach we all need to take,” commented Goba.

The IT Personality Award recognises a respected and outstanding ICT professional who has made a significant technical or academic contribution to the industry, who has been successful in building a respected IT organisation or business, and/or who has made a major contribution to the IT profession over a number of years.

As a career entrepreneur who started her first informal venture at the age of 14, Luthuli heads up Take Note IT, which was launched in November 2017. It is one of the few black, female-led, cyber security and internet of things (IOT) firms in SA.

Luthuli has an MBA from Henley International Business School, a Harvard VPAL Cyber Security: Managing Risk in the Information Age (Harvard University), a Management Development Programme Diploma (UNISA), and a degree in Public Administration from the Cape Town University of Technology.

The IITPSA says she has made an immense contribution to SA’s cyber security and IOT industries, in numerous ways, including establishing the Cyber Excellence Academy, in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), where she helps to produce a new generation of young, highly-skilled cyber security employees.

Luthuli also serves as a board member of the Gautrain Management Agency, Female Founders Initiative − Middle East and Africa, Women in Techand the CSIR cyber security advisory board.

Under Take Note IT, she has engineered products and services that secure digital and physical assets by proactively mitigating the risk of hacking, vandalism and theft – helping to protect local businesses and citizens, notes the IITPSA.

Accepting the award, Luthuli said: “I must admit this was unexpected. It is an honour and a privilege to be recognised for this award. As women, our time is now; we cannot afford to wait any longer.

“And for men as well, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) presents immense opportunities to all of us. We are the most privileged generation ever – if you compare our history to where we are right now.

“I always say that my biggest quest is for South Africa not to miss the boat, especially our younger generation. Let’s bring along our young generation and enable them to learn and benefit from the wonderful world of the 4IR.”

Her previous accolades include the Corporate Livewire Global Awards 2022/2023 Cyber Security Service of the Year South Africa; Top Empowerment Winner 2022; AfricaTech Week: Security Technology Company 2021; and Woman of Stature: Women in IT: Technology Award 2022.

Additional 2023 winners:

Technology Excellence Award

Professor Mark Nasila, chief data and analytics officer of FirstRand Risk, and member of the Singularity University Faculty for Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Data Strategies, received the Technology Excellence Award 2023.

Recognised as a leading force in the development of techniques and methodologies for AI, data science and machine learning, he is the developer and brain behind an AI system FNB has harnessed to reimagine its risk management and forensic due diligence processes.

He holds a PhD and MSc (cum laude) in Mathematical Statistics from NMMU, and is a steering committee member of the National Institute for Theoretical Physics and Computational Sciences, a research fellow at Stellenbosch University and a professor of practice in artificial intelligence at the University of Johannesburg.

Professor Mark Nasila, chief data and analytics officer of FirstRand Risk.
Professor Mark Nasila, chief data and analytics officer of FirstRand Risk.
Social Responsibility/Community Award

This award is presented to a person, team or project that delivers the benefits of IT on a not-for-profit basis into the community, or brings the community into the IT space. This year, the award went to Nomusa Keninda, founder of the Mpumalanga ICT Club and an e-learning specialist for the Mpumalanga Department of Education.

Dynamism in ICT Youth Award

This award recognises a person who has demonstrated exceptional potential or achievement in ICT over the past two to five years, or a person who has demonstrated dynamism in ICT.

The accolade in this category went to Amukelani Michael Mhlongo, COO of Me2You. The 25-year-old entrepreneur co-founded Me2You, which combines a meal kit delivery service with a virtual food bank, targeting food waste, hunger and environmental sustainability.

Distinguished Service in ICT Award

Professor Janet Wesson of the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University received this award, which recognises a significant, career-length contribution to the ICT profession and/or industry.

Fellowship of the Institute Award

Given in recognition of an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the institute or the profession as a whole, this award went to Rob Kerrich-Walker, consultant at BMW, and Tony Parry, CEO and professional member of the IITPSA.

Past winners of the IT Personality Award include the University of Johannesburg’s former vice-chancellor and principal professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Livestock Wealth’s Ntuthuko Shezi, Geekulcha COO Tiyani Nghonyama, Zutari CEO Teddy Daka, former Adapt IT CEO Sbu Shabalala, WeThinkCode CEO Nyari Samushonga and Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee.