8 March 2023
Phillipa Martin

Welcome to our new series, Rules as Code Insights

Welcome to the first installment in our new blog series on Rules as Code (RaC). Starting from today we’ll be blogging once a quarter, covering RaC news, policy and case studies. We hope to create a must-read resource on everything RaC, a central repository for high-value RaC information.

We thought we’d kick off our Rules as Code Insight series by defining RaC and giving you some working examples, including a deeper dive into a project from RaC pioneers, France.

What is Rules as Code?

Rules as Code (RaC) is the process of taking legislation, regulations and policies and turning them into machine-readable code. More about What is Rules as Code?

Why is Rules as Code important?

Turning rules into machine-readable code provides many benefits for government, citizens and broader society. Some of its benefits include:

  • Reduced ambiguity for a clear and citizen-centric experience
  • More accessible making it easier for citizens to access and understand rules and legislation (no legal jargon)
  • Re-usable, with an OpenFisca rules engine that can be reused by multiple user interfaces
  • Easier to manage
  • Greater transparency
  • Can be used to help inform policy and model changes

Rules as Code in action

Of course, a definition is only part of the story. So what are some examples of Rules as Code? Three high level examples include:

  • Assessing eligibility for social security benefits
  • Calculating benefits
  • Defining obligations

Government’s role in Rules as Code

Government, or specific departments within government, are often the owners of rules and legislation. As such, government can (and perhaps should) lead the way in RaC.

When writing new legislation or updating existing legislation, government should develop a code-first mindset. Just like web development often adopts a mobile-first approach, rules and legislation could follow a code-first approach. Then, traditional methods (e.g. hardcopy Acts) can sit side-by-side with the coded rules or even eventually be replaced completely. If government followed this code-first approach, it would also bring all the benefits of RaC to citizens whenever new laws are introduced.

There are many benefits to legislation being codified to be consumed faster by citizens. When citizens can understand and adopt new legislation quickly, the intended benefits can be realised in shortening cycles, bringing benefits to citizens’ overall welfare and wellbeing sooner.

Mes Aides case study

To kick off our first Rules as Code Insight, we wanted to highlight one case study. Given OpenFisca was created by the French Government and that France is an early adopter and innovator in the RaC space, it seems natural to spotlight Mes Aides.

Mes Aides (My Helpers) – Entitlements eligibility simulatorExternal Link

Mes Aides uses OpenFisca and its web API to let French citizens know about their eligibility to national and local benefits. The portal has two simulators:

  1. Link : For under 30-year-olds, the site allows users to check the eligibility for more than 500 entitlements.

  2. Link : For all citizens to evaluate their eligibility for almost 60 entitlements.

The OpenFisca-powered eligibility simulator compares an individual’s personal situation to French social security legislation eligibility criteria, and informs users whether they’re entitled to payments. Additionally, the OpenFisca engine can calculate how much citizens should get and any conditions or obligations they must meet.

Users are guided through a series of questions in webforms. Alternatively, users can login, which will pre-populate known data.

Even though it’s in French (!) we suggest you take a look to see the power of OpenFisca and Rules as Code in action. French citizens can use Mes Aides to quickly and easily check their eligibility and entitlements online.

Salsa Digital’s take

Salsa is passionate about Rules as Code and the future this emerging space has both in Australia and overseas. Our commitment to RaC extended in 2022 to a $20K donation to a NZ RaC project ( benefitme.nzExternal Link ) as well as three resources 8 hours/week. Read first blog in our series about NZ RaC

Our interest and commitment continues this year through project work and this new Insight series. We’re looking forward to taking you on the RaC journey with us.