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A quick, low-risk policy win for government agencies

Minimising regulatory burden and digitising government are two high priority areas for New Zealand’s new coalition government. A lot of this work will be time and resource intensive, and definitely won’t happen overnight.

Fortunately, there are some quick policy wins in this area too – one of which we’ve identified in a paper we’re releasing today.

In short: government agencies already hold digital copies of published regulations, and they could easily publish these digital copies too. This would reduce the regulatory burden for New Zealanders, as well as enabling innovative new digital products and services of the kind we want to create.

The current context

Not all government regulations are developed and published by Parliamentary Counsel – many government agencies develop and publish their own regulations outside the website.

Usually, these regulations are published as a PDF. Sometimes, agencies will go further and extract these rules for display on more accessible websites – but not often.

If anyone wants to extract these rules for use in another context, they’re faced with some unattractive options. They can do a terrible copy-paste exercise and tidy it up later, convert the PDF using software, or use scraping software to scrape a government website. These options just aren’t great for most people.

The opportunity

Anything published in these formats was, at one time, prepared in a more useful format. This might be a Microsoft Word document, or a set of files that are used by the website to display the rules to the public. Those digital files are just sitting there –and they would be really useful for organisations like us.

Government agencies could easily just publish these files directly – the word documents, or the website content itself, rather than the PDFs or the public-facing website. What’s more, we think this is best practice, and even legally required, as well as important for accessibility for disabled people.

This small step would be low risk, high impact, and take minimal effort. Check out the paper and get in touch if you’re interested.


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