Nuclear Scientist, Nomso Faith Kana on improving broadband infrastructure in South Africa

Nuclear Scientist, Nomso Faith Kana on improving broadband infrastructure in South Africa
6 min read

Nomso Faith Kana is a nuclear scientist by trade and the founder of Sun n Shield 84 Technologies, a fibre optic cable manufacturing start-up in South Africa.

Nomso Faith Kana

Nomso was elected as one of the top 80 emerging leaders in science and technology in Africa and the Middle East, and participated in TechWomen in 2013, an exchange program for women in STEM fields. She drives UN Women endorsed programs that empower women and the girl child in the SADC. 

Nomso Faith Kana

“I come from the most supporting family in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, my childhood was filled with lots of activity and curiosity (I am still playful TODAY), and sometimes I would go with my father to the fields and look after his cattle. I became fascinated with science from primary. The first time I watched Star Trek my eyes popped. I still remember that – it was like I walked into a candy store. My parents were both teachers so they picked up this passion for science and harnessed it from secondary to tertiary. I studied computer science, chemistry and physics in my tertiary life. I love programming. I thought I would go that route but the science of chemistry and physics took over, and I landed in medical biology science. I am a qualified medical biology scientist who also got training in medical nuclear science.” 

  • What is it like to be a nuclear scientist?

“Science makes people reach for objectivity, proven facts and it is in the service of humanity. Science is important for humans to thrive and survive. I discovered that in all my years of working in laboratories. I worked in a radioisotope lab developing methods for chemotherapy treatments, splitting atoms, researching and optimising processes. I hung my lab coat two years ago. As a scientist your heart is always inclined to solving problems. This passion makes you move from one sector to another. I am now in the broadband and ICT sector, and I take pride that I am a nuclear scientist by trade, and that African girls with a similar passion can relate to me.”

  • You emerged one of the top 80 emerging leaders in science and technology in Africa and the Middle East and participated in TechWomen in 2013. What are your thoughts on STEM education for women in South Africa? Why should this be encouraged?

“I was ecstatic to be recognized and selected in this initiative started by former state secretary of the US, Hillary Clinton. This appointment boosted my career life and amplified my voice and influence. The recognition allowed me to expand my “Pay it Forward” initiative for girls in STEM in South Africa and the SADC. There is a huge deficit of science and engineering professions in the SA and SADC as a whole. An estimated 2.5 million new engineers and technicians are required in sub-Saharan Africa alone to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of improved access to clean water and sanitation. To achieve this, we need to attract every young mind to engineering, especially in the developing world, where attracting more women to fields in which they are underrepresented must be part of the solution. It is important to encourage women to be part of the ‘solution table’ for all African problem. Girls should be drawn to and retained in STEM fields from an early age. In 2014, a close friend of mine and I started ‘Taungana’ (meaning coming together) STEM movement, where we recruit and give STEM industry exposure to girls studying in rural areas, excelling in maths and science with a passion for community development. This is coupled with design thinking, entrepreneurship boot camps and innovation skills workshops.”

  • Tell us about Sun n Shield 84 Technologies, and what you do.

“I am the founder and managing director of Sun n Shield 84 Tech group, an ISP and broadband infrastructure company. The group distributes passive fibre optic products, offers solutions for smart cities, participates in broadband rollout and has commenced in erupting a plant to produce local made products to be used for seamless internet connectivity. We believe that Africans must connect to the global community. But first, let’s connect to one another. We are currently in talks with local SADC telecoms to build fibre highways in order to make internet a basic human right as it is emerging to be one. My role is to drive the ship, but I don’t do it alone. I have an advisory team that ensures we move towards our mission’s direction.”

  • What are your thoughts on how sustainable energy can improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable inhabitants​​​​​​​?

“Nature has provided us with chemical energy (coal, oil, gas), indirect nuclear energy from the sun (wind, solar and hydro) and direct nuclear energy (nuclear fission from uranium and other isotopes). Sustainability to me is about the importance of moral and sustainable energy policies which governments are custodians of. This means having the most under privileged people in mind when installing energy technology that works for the best benefit of man and the environment. This means respect for vulnerable people and accepting responsibility for the care of our beloved planet.”

  • What do you do when you aren’t working?

“When I am not glued to my laptop or stuck in meetings, I spend time with family and friends. It’s priority! I also love travelling, especially to African countries, spending time with family and friends, meeting new people, learning other cultures and sharing about my faith. I enjoy discussing African politics as well as global markets. I love reading and I admire snakes – I love reptiles! <3”