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 Wednesday, 25 May 2005

2005 marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the report of the Independent Commission ("Maitland Commission") on Worldwide Telecommunication Development, entitled "The Missing Link". To mark the anniversary, ITU has published the original report on its website, in English, French and Spanish.

The "missing link" of the title's report refers to the gap in telecommunications development, within and between nations. Although the term "digital divide" is now more common, the original arguments presented in the report are still quite valid. In particular, the report calls for "decisions at the highest political level" to bring "all of mankind within easy reach of a telephone by early part of the next century". Research by ITU (see the 2003 World Telecommunication Development Report) indicates that, by the start of this century, just over 80 per cent of the world's population were within reach of phones (increasingly mobile phones rather than fixed line telephones). Although this falls short of the original target, the "decisions at the highest political level" that the report calls for is now closer to fruition with the holding of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which is the first time this issue has been discussed at the Heads of State and Heads of Government level. The WSIS Declaration of Principles, adopted by the first phase of the WSIS in December 2003 contains the following commitment (para 10):

"We are also fully aware that the benefits of the information technology revolution are today unevenly distributed between the developed and the developing countries and within societies. We are fully committed to turning this digital divide into a digital opportunity for all, particularly for those who risk being left behind and being further marginalized".