Number, Please


Number, Please

With the government providing more and more services over the phone, what is the phone number? Try 411 -- information. Ask the operator about a government service, like getting a passport. The information operators hate calls like these because, like the rest of us, all they have to work with are the government listings in the phone book. The low-tech puzzle that must be solved before reaching the high-tech government is the "blue pages."

The blue pages are not like the yellow pages. Yellow pages list things and services. Blue pages list names of organizations. The information operator would have to know that the question about passports would be answered by the State Department (listed under "S").

We are fixing the blue pages. The General Services Administration handles phone services for the government, but each agency creates its own listings in each phone book around the country, so changing the blue pages is a big coordination job. Nonetheless, as a start, GSA and the agencies have promised to have new blue pages in at least five cities reaching 11 million people this fall. (14) Soon, callers wanting a passport will look under "P" for passport.

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