Warp drive and other faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion technologies were the lynch pin of an interstellar civilization, making trade and exploration across vast interstellar distances viable. Without these technologies, these distances could not be crossed in any reasonable period of time, making interstellar civilization usually limited to a single sector. (TNG: "A Matter of Time") To put this in perspective, planets that were years away with impulse speeds could be reached in days with ships equipped with warp drive. (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before")
Cultures in the galaxy discovered warp drive at their own pace and rate of development, as most of the cultures had to do. The Vulcans were an interstellar civilization by 9th century BC. (ENT: "The Andorian Incident") They invented warp drive some time after 1947 and had reached the level of warp 7 by 2151. (ENT: "Fallen Hero"; DS9: "Little Green Men") Klingons had interstellar travel capability around the time of Kahless in the 9th century. They also invented warp drive some time after 1947 and had achieved the capability of warp 6 by 2151. (TNG: "Rightful Heir"; DS9: "Little Green Men"; VOY: "Day of Honor"; ENT: "Judgment") Romulans were once considered a group of thugs and warp drive was regarded as the key technology that allowed the founding of their Star Empire. (Star Trek: Insurrection) The Vissians developed warp drive around the 12th century. (ENT: "Cogenitor") The Borg in the Delta Quadrant began to establish their interstellar collective by the 15th century. (VOY: "Dragon's Teeth") However, it was the rapid progress of Humanity which led to the wide-scale exploration of the galaxy and the formation of the United Federation of Planets.
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