Poppy Tshabalala

Poppy Tshabalala

Vice-principal: ICT & CIO, University of South Africa (UNISA)


  • Leader
  • Visionary
  • Transformer
Highlights of career path
Poppy Tshabalala’s career highlights include being the executive head of business development at Vodacom, CIO of the Department of Trade and Industry, and setting up the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) as an ICT senior manager. Another highlight was when she was voted finalist for the ICT Visionary award in 2008 by the Institute of IT Professionals South Africa (IITPSA).

Short description of Unisa
Unisa is the largest open distance learning institution in Africa and the longest standing dedicated distance education university in the world. We enrol nearly one-third of all South African students. It is committed to strong scholarship, critical thinking and self-reflection, producing quality graduates and promoting excellence in research and innovation. Unisa is guided by the principles of lifelong learning, student centeredness, innovation and creativity, which find expression in the Unisa 2030 Strategy.

Poppy’s Role in Unisa
My role is to build and maintain an adaptive and dynamic ICT capability for Unisa. This entails providing comprehensive support to all its stakeholders, enabling current and future ambitions of the university and being a pivotal part of the digital transformation as part of the Unisa 2016-2030 Strategy and Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) Business Model.

Technical Issues in the Education sector
There are two. The first is digital equity – ensuring equal access to technology is affecting developed and developing countries alike. The second is managing knowledge obsolescence – staying organised in a world where educational needs, software, and devices advance at a rapid rate.

To me, digital transformation is a disruptive challenge higher education is facing, fighting for its survival.

Poppy Tshabalala will be speaking on the following topic:

Industry Keynote Journey to digital transformation

Poppy Tshabalala will speak to her digital transformation journey spanning more than 20 years in the ICT sector both in the Public and Private Sector in South Africa culminating in her current role as vice principal: ICT & CIO at UNISA. This is her story documenting the changes she has experienced in technology and how this has impacted her journey.

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