Twenty Years of Measuring the Missing Link


Kelly, T. (2005). “Twenty Years of Measuring the Missing Link”. In The Economist, October 2005. London: The Economist. Retrieved August 25, 2010 from

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Type of work: Article (academic)


e-Readiness | ICT Infrastructure | Information Society


In 1985, in the report of the Independent Commission of the Independent Commission for Worldwide Telecommunications Development: The Missing Link, Sir Donald Maitland and his team reported on the lack of telephones worldwide that was impeding the world’s economic and social development.

Some 20 years later, in its September 16 2005 edition, The Economist reported on the “death” of the phone business, supposedly killed by the rise of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The capacity of the Internet, which is optimised for data, is so great that telephone calls can be carried at a marginal cost which begins to approach zero.

What happened in the 20 intervening years to convert a global shortage of phones into a glut of over-capacity? How has the world changed in those two decades? How has the science of measuring the “missing link”—or the “digital divide” as we are more likely to call it today— affected our understanding of the problem?

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