Distance is dead: the world will change

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7072.1572 (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1572
  1. Richard Smith
  1. Editor BMJ London WC1H 9JR

    The exponential fall in telecommunication costs will transform our world, probably for the better

    In 1930 a three minute telephone call from London to New York cost about $250 at 1990 prices.1 Now it costs $2. By the year 2005 it may cost 10 cents.2 In effect, it will be free. This dramatic fall in the price of telecommunication will, predicts the World Bank, have the most profound effect on our individual lives and the world economy.2 Many of us will work from home. Offices will shrink or disappear. We will shop worldwide without moving from our homes. Transport will become less important; pollution and accidents will fall. In the developed world we may redisperse from cities to the country, while people in the developing world may not have to migrate to cities to find higher paid jobs. Most importantly, jobs will migrate from the developed to the developing world. In World Bank speak: “An acceleration of the rebalancing of wealth between nations in the various stages of economic development is the fundamental effect.”2 This redistribution of wealth will do more to improve health than all the world's doctors could ever hope to achieve.

    Telecommunication charges have fallen and will continue to fall for three main reasons. Firstly, there is overcapacity in international links, mainly because of the introduction of fibreoptic cables. Price has not yet, however, fallen as fast as cost. In …

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