Better Rules, Better Outcomes

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This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

The frameworks for creating and managing the rule of government, as reflected in policies, legislation and regulation, are still based on a paper paradigm. In a digital world this creates poor service experiences and often the intent of a policy is not achieved. Instead if we co-design authoritative machine-consumable rules we can provide better services for citizens, better delivery of policy intent, and enable communities, NGOs and private sector to be part of a government service ecosystem.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The models of creating, managing, using and improving the 'rules' of government (policy, legislation, regulation and business rules) are traditionally developed for use in a non-digital – paper – environment. In an ever increasing digital world, this creates inefficiencies and also can impact on the effectiveness of the policy – i.e. the original policy intent is not achieved.

New digital technologies and the effective use of government data present opportunities to better deliver to people’s needs. To fully realise these opportunities, policy and rules need to be developed in a manner that recognises the context of the business or citizen customer experience, and enables digital service delivery where appropriate. A different approach would be to apply a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach to co-design authoritative and reusable sources of machine consumable legislation and rules in conjunction with the transparently equivalent human-readable versions. This enables software, artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT applications to be primary consumers of government rules.

The benefits of this approach would be: faster and better delivery of policy intent through integrated policy and service design; services designed to be delivered in the most effective and user-centered manner, e.g. seamless and responsive services; reduced risk from misinterpretation of rules & effective communication of rule changes simultaneously for all systems relying on those rules; early error correction, modelling & testing of outcomes; digital transformation of government; legislative reform, & future proofed policy; better cross system rules management; accountability of public and private measures & decision-making, supporting open, transparent, government; enabling NGOs, communities, social enterprises and private sector to be part of a government services ecosystem.

In February 2018 a 3 week Discovery Sprint (Better Rules) explored this approach. The results were published in April 2018 and were subsequently reported by Apolitical, to much global acclaim. In July 2018, it was agreed that two existing cross-agency work programmes (Service Innovation Lab and Better-for-Business) will co-lead further development of this work. These two programmes represent 16 government agencies that are responsible for a large number of regulatory frameworks and provide the majority of government services to citizens and businesses. A global and distributed work programme has emerged since April 2018. In September 2018 a global online discussion forum was launched to shape a common vision and actions to realise this vision.

The Service Innovation Lab provided the environment and process for the 3 week Discovery Sprint, using a design-led and agile approach. The key feature was empowering a multidisciplinary, and multi-agency team to explore the problem space and co-create an approach. This team included policy developers, legislative drafters, service designers, rules analysts and software coders. The first week focused on understanding the problem and opportunity. The second and third weeks was spent working on two use cases to test the concept of developing machine consumable rules in parallel to human-readable legislation. The team used methods from the business rules community: concept diagrams, decision-trees and RuleSpeak, and used the software language Python to write the test legislation as code.

The Service Innovation Lab has since implemented two use cases of legislation as code: (1) to support a planning tool for parents, expectant parents and caregivers to assess what financial help is available; (2) a calculator to help low income ratepayers find out how much of a rebate they are entitled to and steps them through the application process.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment has taken the lessons learnt through the Better Rules Discovery into account as they review the Holidays Act, where the intent of the Act is widely supported, but the design of the Act makes it difficult to implement. The Discovery Sprint explored if a “rules” approach could help remedy some of the problems. Some of the findings are reflected in a Cabinet paper.

The next steps are to: (1) further test the approach on the end-to-end review and implementation of a piece of legislation; (2) bridge the gaps between professions (policy, service design, software developers) (3) connect up the global interests through an open online forum; and (4) harness the collective work and intelligence across communities to better understand the problems and opportunities in this space.

During our journey, we have been inspired by: Data61 (Australia) and their concept and tool for “regulation-as-a-platform”; the implementation of the OpenFisca software (France) as an open source rules and calculation engine; the business rules methods used by Inland Revenue (NZ) based on the Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules Standard.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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