Paul Sturges is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Information Science at Loughborough University in the UK and also Professor Extraordinary at the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria.
His two main academic interests are African Librarianship (since teaching the 1984-5 year at the University of Botswana) and Ethical aspects of information work (particularly as Chair of IFLA FAIFE Committee during 2003-2009).A new research interest arising from the latter is Comedy as Freedom of Expression.
His first presentation, ‘Finding New Ways to Serve Information Needs,” discussed the fact that the library is still seen by many in the profession as fundamentally a collecting and preserving institution, rather than an institution committed to serving the information needs of society. To help reconceptualise the library as an active player in society, four practical principles are offered for thought and discussion: people want information brought to them; people’s culture must be respected; people learn in different ways; and, people are sociable.
His second presentation, “Leading Africa into the Digital Future,” examined the question ‘Who will lead Africa into the digital future?’ which is answered with the response ‘The people’. The general population of African countries has been characterised as needing help to access the content it ‘should’ want, with technology it ‘should’ use. In practice, the people have taken up the cell phone, a technology of which they feel ownership, and used it to amplify their existing preference for oral transfer of information. The swiftly multiplying popular uses of simple cell phone technology in Africa are illustrated from the marketing of goods and services, improved handling of personal finances, and the management of the extended family as a socio-economic unit.