“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” — Nelson Mandela




Nelson Mandela University

Noluxolo Gcaza holds a PhD in information technology. In all her pursuits, she is driven by the mission of cultivating a cyber secure culture in South Africa. Noluxolo has always been an evangelist for cyber safety. She became increasingly concerned about the prevalence of cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content among children and the youth. Cyberbullying and online harassment can have long-term effects on mental health and well-being. 

Motivated by her desire to make a positive change, she took action and founded The Cyberculture Foundation to promote responsible internet use and digital wellness among children and youth. The foundation offers digital citizenship training, digital wellness education, a digital mentorship programme, community workshops, as well as research and advocacy. 

As an associate professor at Nelson Mandela University, she is leading a new accredited cybersecurity postgraduate course. 

She has also mentored and coached young girls and women in IT on Heels. 

Noluxolo serves as an independent non-executive director for the South African Banking Risk Information Centre.

  • National diploma in software development, Nelson Mandela University, 2010
  • Bachelor of Technology in software development cum laude, Nelson Mandela University, 2011
  • Master of Technology: Information Technology cum laude with the research focus: Cyber Security Awareness and Education, Nelson Mandela University, 2013
  • PhD in information technology research on Strategy Development for a Cyber Security Culture, Nelson Mandela University, 2017

  • Merit award: Academic Excellence in Research Project, 2011       
  • Golden Key Honorary award, 2012 
  • CSIR: Collaboration Excellence award, 2018 
  • South African Institute for Computer Scientists and Information Technologists, Best Research Paper award, 2018
  • InspiringFifty award winner, 2019

During my primary school years, I would sell vegetables door-to-door in my community to make ends meet. Despite our financial struggles, my father encouraged me not to take the experience personally and reminded me that our family’s hardships were not our burden as children. He stressed that if we could focus on achieving success in school, we would have a bright future ahead of us.

The struggles in my childhood and early adulthood shaped me to live in the future. Joy, happiness, and fulfilment always seemed to be attainable in the destination and not the journey, so I believe I never truly embraced the now. As a result, I would advise my younger self to learn to be present and live in the moment. To learn to enjoy both the great and the mundane in life, to be captured by both the hope of the future and the journey at the present moment.

South Africa has a rapidly growing digital landscape, with increasing access to digital devices and the internet. But this growth has also brought with it new problems, including cyberbullying, online harassment and exposure to inappropriate content. The impact of the digital world on children and youth is significant, with studies showing that negative online experiences can lead to psychological distress, anxiety, depression and suicide.

Despite this, there is hope for the future. I am actively contributing to creating a future with increased awareness and education on safe and responsible internet use, for children and adults. In five years I would like to see advancements in technology to improve online safety, such as stronger privacy settings and content filters. I hope to see government and industry leaders work together to develop policies and regulations that protect children and youth online.

Finally, I hope to see mental health support and resources readily available for those who have experienced negative online experiences. By addressing these challenges and promoting a safe and positive digital environment, South Africa can pave the way for a brighter and healthier future for its youth.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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