Agile legislation must be at the heart of the future of government


Last week I di a keynote on behalf of a major professional services firm to a group of senior public sector executives.

The topic was The Future of Government, so I provided a high-level frame on the forces dramatically shifting the role of government, and the opportunities to reshape government to transcend the government-citizen divide and catalyze resources to generate the sociel outcomes we desire far more efficiently and effectively.

My slides and an overview of my presentation can be found on my Future of Government keynote page.

One of the topics I touched on was the importance of agile legislation.

It is a truism that legislation is not keeping up with the pace of change in the world. Legislation is slow, and the world is moving increasingly fast.

The solution is less in making the legislative process faster, and more in making legislative agile and adaptable.

With some tweaking for context, the principles of the Agile Manifesto and Lean Startup provide a decent starting frame.

However the essence is that legislation must be seen not as something set in stone, but as an ongoing journey of adaptation.

As an example, the UAE RegLab, set up at the beginning of this year

“is designed to proactively anticipate and develop future legislation governing the use and applications of emerging technologies in the UAE in ways that maximise the benefits and minimise the risks. It aims to create projects that can be adopted by policy-makers, legislators and regulators worldwide.”

On the same lines, regulatory sandboxes have rapidly become commonplace around the world over the last few years. This has been driven notably by the rise of fintech, which has the potential to offer substantial value to consumers of finance services, yet is often not able to innovate effectively within long-established financial regulations.

One very nice example of regulatory innovation is New Zealand’s Better Rules initiative.

It is about re-imagining regulation as an open platform based on logic, decision models and rules – also known as ‘legislation as code’. We are reframing the regulatory design process using an end-to-end system design approach to enable regulation to be more easily implemented as part of NZ government’s digital services for citizens and businesses.

In particular legislation in the Better Rules model is designed to be “machine consumable” so it can be integrated into users’ systems, with benefits including tighter feedback loops to enable swift iteration and development.

The journey to agile legislation will be long and highly challenging, but for governments to remain relevant and useful in an era of extraordinary change, legislation needs to keep pace.

Image: Visual artist Frank Bonilla