More than 50% of the people in the world have never made or received a telephone call.
In 1995, in a survey of telecommunications by The Economist magazine,
the phrase “half the world’s population has never made a phone call”
first appeared (attributed to Richard Klugman or Paine Webber).
Since then, the phrase has taken on a life of its own, having been
attributed variously to Kofi Annan, Thabo Mbeki, and Charles Lee,
former CEO of GTE. Google shows hundreds of matches on the phrase,
though almost none of them attribute Klugman. It is still being used
in current debates
In some cases the statistic is actually increased, as with a speech
from April of this year inflating the figure to “most of the world”
(http://www.un.org/ga/coi/statements02/Indonesia.htm) or an editorial
from May of 2001 claiming that an astonishing 80% of the world has
never made a phone call.
Note that the Economist, the most careful of magazines, did not even
present the original figure as factual, but rather took it as an
attributed quote. Nevertheless, if we take the figure as a correct
state of the telecosm in mid-1995, the figure can no longer be
correct, as the last 7 years have seen considerable growth in
teledensity in the developing world.
So, what approximate percentage of the world has now made a phone call