Report Launch – OPSI Innovation Primer on Rules as Code

Written by and on 14 October 2020

Today, we are pleased to launch OPSI’s third innovation primer, Cracking the Code: Rulemaking for humans and machines. Exploring the exciting emergence of Rules as Code (RaC) in the public sector, we hope the primer will equip public servants (and others) to consider, understand and possibly implement RaC in their own work.

Rules as Code (RaC) is an exciting concept that rethinks one of the core functions of governments: rulemaking. It proposes that governments create an official version of rules (e.g. laws and regulations) in a machine-consumable form, which allows rules to be understood and actioned by computer systems in a consistent way. The creation of a machine-consumable version of government rules would be integrated in the rulemaking process and complement the existing, human-readable form. RaC challenges the long-established processes of government rulemaking and could transform both policy making and public service delivery.

A result of almost 10 months of research and analysis, the primer is built on the insights, experiences and case studies of a global RaC community. It has benefited from the knowledge of dozens of experts and practitioners, who have provided invaluable insight into how RaC has emerged and is being tested and used in a public sector context. This was particularly clear during the public consultation for the primer, which received significant engagement from governments, public servants, technologists and academics working in this area.

This engagement enabled us to make several changes that ultimately strengthened the arguments of the primer. We’d like to thank everyone who participated in this process, and we’ve sought to recognise those who made particularly significant contributions in the acknowledgements section of the primer (we hope we haven’t missed anyone!).

OPSI has released the full report in both English and French. Additionally, we have created a Cracking the Code: Highlights document for those seeking a shorter, high-level summary of the report’s main findings. You can find all these documents, and more information, on OPSI’s new Rules as Code project page.

About Cracking the Code

As we have previously written, the intention of the primer is to give confidence and direction to those in the public sector considering RaC and its potential application in their specific government contexts. We want it to stimulate the conversation about RaC’s potential benefits and challenges, and to spark further investigation, experimentation and research.

To this end, the report covers:

  • The new context and why new rules (and rulemaking) is required (Chapter 1)
  • What RaC is and why it is needed (Chapters 2 and 3)
  • The case for RaC and possible approaches (Chapters 4 and 5)
  • Potential considerations which may affect its development and use (Chapter 6)
  • A number of future scenarios, which explore how RaC could develop (Chapter 7)
  • How RaC can be operationalised (Chapter 8)
  • A number of case studies detailing RaC efforts around the world.

In combination, we hope this represents an understandable and accessible introduction to RaC, providing a mix of theoretical and practical advice that will enable future uptake in the public sector.

An ongoing conversation

Around the world, public services are building on previous efforts to further test and experiment with RaC. In Canada, it was announced that a “full end to end Rules as Code project is officially kicked off” following previous, successful trials (which are covered in the primer). Just recently, Digital.NSW (New South Wales Government, Australia), reported they “have created a digital version of the Community Gaming Regulation” using a RaC approach.

In the primer, we hope that other public sector organisations, and those interested in RaC more broadly, will find a useful resource capable of guiding their efforts to ensure that future rulemaking works for humans and machines. This will be an ongoing journey as more is learnt, and we will continue to list related projects and pieces on the RaC project page.

Contact us

You can find the recording of the webinar here.

For further information about RaC or Cracking the Code email James Mohun or Alex Roberts. You can also follow us on Twitter (James Mohun and Alex Roberts) or join the conversation by using the hashtag #RulesAsCode.

  1. I want to thank the OPSI team for putting the primer together. Developing a primer covering this topic and soliciting inputs from across the world is a huge task. Individual teams working in this area don’t have the capacity and bandwidth to pull this off. Thanks again.

    • Hi Pim, thank you for the kind words. We have very much appreciated all your support throughout the primer’s development and we certainly hope that you are able to continue the great RaC work you are doing in NZ. Please keep us informed! Thanks, James

  2. Is it possible to provide a series of presentation on the contents of this primer for the general public to spread the knowledge contained in the primer?

  3. A very interesting report! In Norway there is a lot of attention on RaC primarily driven by automated decisions in case handling processes. We have automated the handling of Norwegian citizenship applications using an RaC approach.
    In our work we have come across a very interesting initiative in the Netherlands, , (use Google Chrome and translate the pages).
    It is a very interesting programme as they also have made the law digital (machine readable and referenceable) and all rules are maintained using an OMG standard, DMN (Decision Modelling and Notation) and executed in a DMN rule engine. An english article can be found here:
    Is there a reason why this initative is not mentioned in the report?

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