Conduct pilots using "better rules approach" with citizens and experts

New Zealand has pioneered "a better rules approach" to policy. "A better rules approach" involves the use of a multidisciplinary team to develop a policy at the outset with an understanding of how it will be implemented in digital systems. Rather than being a linear process, policy development is conducted at the outset with programmers, lawyers, legal drafters, policy people, service designers, and subject matter experts. I think this group should also include interested citizens or experts from outside government. The team would collaborate to take a policy idea from idea to implementation as a pilot. A better rules approach results in the creation of the policy specification, a legal instrument to shape how the policy is delivered, and also a computational model of how the policy works. This enables actual use cases to be tested against the policy and for inconsistencies or illogicalities to be identified before a policy is implemented. Also, it means that the policy and law will be capable of being implemented in digital systems. This allows it to be implemented in automated decision-making systems with a high degree of confidence and transparency that the automated decision-making system is applying the law properly. Two examples of where this could be very useful are: the current bill to implement and electronic system for web filtering under the Films Videos Publications Classification Act; and the re-drafting of the resource management act 1991, because ultimately we want to be able to process resource consents as much as possible in a semi-automated way. "A better rules approach" is sometimes referred to as "rules as code", "law as code" or "legislation as code".

Why the contribution is important

Government will need to use digital systems to implement policy and law. When it uses digital systems, it needs to know that they are lawful and accurate representations of what the law requires. They also need to be able to show people that the systems are lawful and accurate to build trust and confidence.

Taking a better rules approach is argued to frequently produce better policy, regardless of whether the law is ever implemented in a digital system. That is because inconsistencies or illogical conceptual matters are ironed out early on in the policy development process, because of the use of a multidisciplinary team. The next logical step is to include citizens in the process as a method of co-design.

Increased use of reliable digital systems to implement policy will have important effects in enabling government to "do more with less" using digital systems, and to enhance citizen access to government services.

by tombarraclough on April 16, 2021 at 11:07AM

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