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October 8, 2012

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Getting help from hotline as easy as 12345

LOCALS can dial a new unified hotline, 12345, today to consult government policies, ask for help on public services and contribute advice on public management, public services or the city's development, authorities said.

The easy-to-remember hotline is to receive and settle complaints and help local residents on government-related issues and non-emergency services. Foreigners also may call to get English-language services.

The hotline, which is government-backed, will clarify the functions of each of the more than 230 hotlines now in Shanghai to enhance government efficiency.

"We expect that the new hotline can unify all the resources and weave a collaborative net to offer better city services," said Xue Qiufang, an official with the hotline management office.

"It's not a merging action. No hotline will disappear. What we want is to offer a more convenient platform for residents," Xue said.

The office began to prepare the hotline in May after some residents complained that they often did not get their needs met after being redirected to another hotline to address a problem.

With the new hotline, locals would be spared the trouble of finding the right hotline among hundreds and go directly to the right person to get their problems handled, said Xue.

As for English-language services, the office has recruited many university students as volunteers.

"Since it's still in trial operation, we offer English services only. We will watch their workload and see if we need more people," Xue said yesterday.

During the trial, the hotline service is manned from 8am to 8pm. It will be extended to 24-hour support after the number becomes more familiar to locals.

The hotline excludes emergency services such as the 110 hotline for crimes, the 120 hotline for ambulances and the 119 hotline for fires. Other services such as calling for a taxi, hiring domestic help and unlocking a door are also excluded.

In March, a Shanghai Daily investigation of 26 government-backed hotlines showed half did not serve English-speaking callers.

Ashley Fernandes, an MBA student in Shanghai, said he had never phoned any hotlines.

"If I am not in a hurry, I will prefer to email or look up the information on the Internet," he said.

Fernandes said he didn't want to phone because he was unsure if the person on the other side could speak English.

Foreigners told Shanghai Daily that they could get limited support from hotlines due to few customer hotlines in English.

Still, expatriates can always ring up the 962288 hotline that has foreign employees and is dedicated to assisting foreigners in addressing inconveniences in daily life.

It is available 24 hours a day and provides service in English and other languages.

Le Di, who is director of the Shanghai Call Center that provides the 962288 hotline, said the hotline now receives around 700 calls a day.


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