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October 9, 2012

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New hotline runs cold for speakers of English

FOREIGNERS may have had trouble trying to call the city's new government service hotline, 12345, on its first day of operation yesterday, a Shanghai Daily investigation found.

The new unified hotline, tied in with district governments and 33 bureaus, government offices and administrations, is meant to provide a better way for local residents and expatriates to get help over the phone.

But due to a shortage of English-speaking staff, foreigners at times had to wait for a longer time before being connected to the operator, or had trouble getting through at all.

A Shanghai Daily reporter called the hotline three times between 4pm and 7pm yesterday and found foreign callers had to speak to Chinese-speaking operators before they were connected to English services.

On the first call, the reporter waited for more than five minutes. None of the three calls were put through to English-language services and all ended with "line busy" and suggestions of calling later.

Xue Qiufang, an official with the hotline management office, declined to comment on the quality of the hotline's English-language services yesterday.

About 30 local university students were recruited as volunteers to pick up calls from English speakers, Xue said.

The line handled a total of nearly 5,000 phone calls by 4pm yesterday and the connection rate was 95.1 percent. Inquiries accounted for about 46 percent of all kinds of calls.


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