On this page:
At a glance
9 to 12 months
CivicTheme, OpenFisca, Drupal
Discovery & strategy
GovTech, Civic tech, Whole of government, Open design, Open source, Web development, Content management systems, Drupal Planet
User needs, Multidisciplinary teams, Agile delivery, Design, Open standards & common platforms, Open source, Accessibility
Digital Aotearoa Collective’s challenge
The Digital Aotearoa (formerly GovZero Aotearoa) wanted to use Rules as Code (RaC) to code NZ’s Social Security Act. This was an important project for the collective, which aims to address injustice and improve wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Digital Aotearoa Collective’s transformation
Salsa donated NZ$20,000 and three team members (for a total of 24 hours a week for 11 months) to help build the first iteration of . Working with other key members, we started with rules analysis, before splitting into two teams: one focused on service design and building the frontend, and one focused on the OpenFisca rules coding. In the last 6 weeks of the project, Salsa also contributed additional Drupal resources. Salsa also donated one year of hosting and support.
- A new website, , built with and Drupal
- A customised webform that interacts with OpenFisca so people can enter in details to see if they’re eligible for benefits
- Coding in OpenFisca of JobSeeker, Sole Parent Support, Disability Allowance and Accommodation Supplement
Detailed case study
Below is detailed information on the challenge, transformation and final outcomes/benefits.
Digital Aotearoa Collective’s challenge — bringing a Rules as Code project to life
The Digital Aotearoa (formerly GovZero Aotearoa) wanted to use Rules as Code (RaC) to code NZ’s Social Security Act. This was an important project for the collective, which aims to address injustice and improve wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. Creating a platform that’s transparent and independent from government was a key goal for the DAC. It would give power back to the people and mean citizens and social security advocates could check social security benefits independent of the government.
However, originally starting as a group of volunteers, the project needed additional funding from corporate sponsors and more people to work on the dedicated RaC project.
Digital Aotearoa Collective’s transformation — service design, OpenFisca coding & website build
Salsa came on board in February 2022 (see our blog, Introducing the GovZero Rules As Code project). Salsa Founder and Director, Alfred Deeb, donated NZ$20K and three team members at 8 hours/week each. The goal was to build the first iteration of a codified version of the NZ Social Security Act.
The project had three main stages/themes:
- Rules mapping
- OpenFisca coding
- Service design and site build
In May 2022, the project also received a $111,100 grant from Cardano to build the first stage. This meant the many volunteers on the project could get paid for their work, which was essential to progress the project. It allowed the non-Salsa team members to devote more time and to be paid for their valuable work.
We started by analysing the NZ Social Security Act (a big task!). Using Miro, our first pass looked at the legislation to identify:
- Eligibility criteria
- Eligibility logic
- Calculator logic
Support living payment
Support living payment
Our second pass defined variables and set up test cases for each benefit.
The process of analysing the rules was quite time consuming. See our blog, How to turn legislation into Rules As Code for more information.
Next, we split into two groups. One to focus on the OpenFisca coding and the other to work on the service design, including visual design and content.
Salsa had one person working in the OpenFisca stream and two in the service design stream.
In total, there were four developers working in the OpenFisca stream, including one of the original, French OpenFisca developers.
The first five social security payments were identified as:
- Sole Parent Support
- Disability Allowance
- Child Disability Allowance
- Accommodation Supplement
The work was divided, with a lot of collaboration across shared entities, definitions, etc.
Service design and site build
The service design stream was led by NZ service designer and DAC member, Siobhan McCarthy. In addition to Salsarians Emil and Phillipa, this stream also included Pia Andrews and Andrew Hubbard (from NZ’s Citizens Advice Bureau).
We started by brainstorming potential ways users could interact with the rules. The idea of dropdown fields and sliders was mocked up in Figma, with some other basic pages as wireframes.
A life events approach was also explored.
These wireframes were then user-tested with people who work and volunteer at NZ’s Citizens Advice Bureau and other key advocacy organisations.
From here the design was further refined.
With the goal of getting the first five services up and running by the end of November (in line with the project’s Cardano grant) we then needed to choose the technology. Ultimately, with the project heavily front-loaded into the rules analysis and early OpenFisca coding, we needed to look at the fastest option to build a user interface… in six weeks!
The broader team looked at several options but in the end and Drupal were chosen, leveraging Salsa’s proof of concept RaC project for GovCMS. CivicTheme is a design system and Drupal theme that ships with the ability for users to easily apply their own colour palette and branding.
Designs were re-worked in Figma to create a minimal viable product (MVP) that leveraged out-of-the-box CivicTheme components.
At the same time, several names for the service were identified and the final one chosen: BenefitMe.
As part of the service design stream, Salsa’s content writer led the information architecture (IA) from draft to final IA. She also created a content template for use across all payments. Then, a team of three (including Salsa’s content writer) drafted the final website content and loaded it into the site.
My Story — the interactive user interface
The My Story page was changed into a customised webform, using an OpenFisca Drupal module that Salsa created. Our Drupal developers and tech lead were brought into the project for the final 6 weeks, to help ensure the website could go live. These new members were once again ‘gifted’ by Salsa. The team included:
- A Drupal dev to finalise elements of the OpenFisca Drupal module
- A Drupal tech lead to lead webform integration and results logic for display
- A Drupal FE developer for custom theming of the webform
Once the form was built and the OpenFisca coding complete, we started testing (both the form logic and the OpenFisca coding). With a first round of testing done internally, the MVP was ready to hand over to the Digital Aotearoa for official user acceptance testing.
Salsa also trained the DAC team on how to manage content in Drupal and how the webform and Drupal module works and interacts with OpenFisca.
Finally, Salsa gifted 12 months of hosting for , including Drupal patching.
The outcomes — a new RaC website, benefitme.nz
An independent website where NZ citizens can go to see what benefits they’re eligible for — putting some power pack into the hands of the public
A customised webform that interacts with OpenFisca so people can enter in details to see if they’re eligible for benefits
Coding in OpenFisca of JobSeeker, Sole Parent Support, Disability Allowance and Accommodation Supplement
A stage 1 deliverable that can be expanded on with additional benefits added and a more customised frontend design
Free hosting for 12 months
About Digital Aotearoa Collective
The Digital Aotearoa (DAC) is a civil society group committed to addressing injustice and improving wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand.