TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Galaxy S3, iPhone 5 or HTC One? That's a tough question for Taiwan's Cabinet ministers.
Senior Taiwanese officials have been under scrutiny for the smartphones they use — specifically whether they support Taiwan's HTC Corp., which plays a big role the island's high-tech economy.
Hu Yu-wei, the information minister and government spokesman, stirred up controversy Sunday for posting a picture of an iPhone 5 on his Facebook page.
"Help the economy and bolster consumption," Hu wrote under the picture showing the Apple handset's black case with its telltale icon.
He was immediately blasted by the media and on the Internet.
"Can you imagine the South Korean government spokesman speaking out for iPhone 5 on his Facebook page?" asked the mass circulation United Daily News. It noted that President Ma Ying-jeou is a big HTC fan and gives out HTC handsets as gifts for foreign dignitaries.
Facing heavy criticism, Hu later explained that he did not own the latest phone by Apple Inc. and was only considering purchasing one.
Hu's act might make economic sense as Taiwan's GDP is forecast to grow just over 1 percent amid the sputtering global economy, and officials are encouraging people to spend more to boost domestic consumption.
After all, iPhone 5 handsets use many Taiwan-made components and are mainly assembled in China by Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group.
But HTC's declining fortunes — largely in the face of stronger competition from Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. — have been cited as a major reason why Taiwan's exports have declined for six months running.
Taiwan's Economics Minister Shih Yen-hsiang has called on the public to buy HTC products, noting that HTC produces its handsets in Taiwan and is more vital to the island's economy than most computer makers, which assemble their products in China.
Hu explained that he now uses the HTC One, a new model that offers users better camera and musical experiences.
"I use HTC, and so do most Cabinet officials," Hu said. "The accusation of my being not patriotic was a misunderstanding."
However, he said, Taiwan's democracy should mature further so "all Cabinet officials can be free from fears of being caught not using HTC phones."
Earlier on HuffPost:
South Korea has long boasted some of the world's fastest and most accessible Internet. <a href="http://news.cnet.com/2300-17938_105-10012951-5.html" target="_hplink">More than 94 percent of South Koreans</a> have high-speed connections. In addition, the South Korean government has pledged to give its citizens access to 1 Gigabit per second Internet by the end of this year -- or <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/technology/22iht-broadband22.html" target="_hplink">more than 200 times faster than the average household in the United States</a>. "South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do," he said during his <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2011" target="_hplink">2011 State of the Union address</a>.
In 2010, Finland became the first country in the world to make broadband access a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/14/finland-broadband-access_n_320481.html" target="_hplink">legal right for all citizens</a>. That right: every one of the country's 5.3 million people will have guaranteed access to a high-speed Internet connection. Meanwhile, in the United States, about 19 million people have no access to high-speed Internet where they live. Finland isn't stopping there. It plans to make lightning-fast 100-megabit broadband service a legal right by the end of 2015.
Swedish broadband is twice as fast and costs one-third the price of broadband in the U.S., <a href="http://newamerica.net/publications/policy/price_of_the_pipe" target="_hplink">according to a study by the New America Foundation</a>. In 2007, a 75-year-old woman from central Sweden <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDwQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fslashdot.org%2Fstory%2F07%2F07%2F12%2F1236231%2Fworlds-fastest-broadband-connection-40-gbps&ei=l3RGUOzxDMjn0QGY3YDwCw&usg=AFQjCNEwTvCABgII17xzH-oyvMmMRVf0VQ" target="_hplink">made headlines</a> when she was given the world's fastest internet connection. She could download a full high-definition DVD in just two seconds.
Japanese has some of the cheapest connections in the world,<a href="http://www.oecd.org/internet/broadbandandtelecom/oecdbroadbandportal.htm" target="_hplink"> according to the OECD</a>. Japan's government has offered companies generous tax incentives to invest in fiber-optic cables. "The Japanese think long-term," a technology consultant told <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/03/business/worldbusiness/03broadband.html?pagewanted=print" target="_hplink">The New York Times in 2007</a>. "If they think they will benefit in 100 years, they will invest for their grandkids. There's a bit of national pride we don't see in the West."
"Consumer broadband prices in France are now among the most affordable in the world," <a href="http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/Berkman_Center_Broadband_Final_Report-Country_Overviews_15Feb2010.pdf" target="_hplink">according to a study</a> by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The study attributed the low prices to regulations that allow rival Internet providers to share access to broadband infrastructure. France is also one of several countries that have declared Internet access "<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,525993,00.html" target="_hplink">a basic human right</a>."