NSW government agencies are being encouraged to model complex legislation and program eligibility requirements using an open-source ‘rules-as-code’ framework modelling NSW gaming laws as a smart online questionnaire to help potential gaming operators evaluate a range of proposed activities.

The new community gaming questionnaire, which models the policies set out in the NSW Community Gaming Regulation 2020, is built around a smart rules engine called OpenFisca – with which NSW Government developers have been experimenting for several years.

Designed to support the digitisation of government funding, grants, entitlements and other policies, OpenFisca provides a modelling language and APIs that facilitate programmatic navigation of a morass of legislation.

Developers can build customer-friendly front-end interfaces while the back-end modelling evaluates entered information against the modelled rules.

A French model called LexImpact, for example, allows ‘what-if’ modelling of the potential revenue impact of a range of policy settings while New Zealand’s Rapu Ture uses OpenFisca to help visitors explore that country’s body of legislative rules.

Keeping up with the rules

Because it uses an open-source framework and clearly defined models, OpenFisca offers is more streamlined and flexible than custom code, which has had to be manually rewritten each time legislation changes.

This makes it immensely valuable for helping citizens and businesses digest the complexities of government programs – particularly relevant as this week’s federal Budget debuts new programs and funding allocations whose eligibility and governance requirements must be interpreted manually.

The technology is “a game-changer for smart regulation”, NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said in launching the gaming questionnaire, which is the first of what he hopes will become a large range of online policy models built on top of OpenFisca.

“Bringing our statue book into the 21st century through this technology helps to reduce errors, eliminate paper, save money and ultimately give precious time back to customers and industry.”

The initial model provides a simple decision-making pathway for charities, not-for-profits and businesses that want to run community games such as art unions, bingo and trade promotions, Dominello said.

“It tells them whether their gaming activity would be permitted or not permitted, and whether they need to apply for an authority to conduct a gaming activity.”

A landmark 2018 study found that application of artificial intelligence to voluminous contractual regulations could interpret their contents better than humans – validating efforts such as OpenFisca’s standardisation of government regulation models.

The effort is yet another step in the efforts by the NSW Government to realise its Beyond Digital strategy, which on 31 August saw the state Parliamentary Counsel’s Office (PCO) launch an overhauled NSW legislation portal organising the state’s body of Acts, statutory instruments, and environmental planning instruments (EPIs).

“Legislation websites are by their nature and content very complex,” the PCO notes, “and the new site features more advanced functionality than we’ve previously offered” including searches and customisable reports for NSW legislation.

The Department of Customer Service will be working to expand the OpenFisca model across the spectrum of legislation, reaching out to other agencies in an effort to encourage them to modelling their own relevant regulations in machine-usable format.