Close this search box.

Insights from an Expert: Machine-Readable Regulations

Spread the words:
machine-readable regulations
Machine-Readable Regulations (MRR) have emerged as a game-changer, offering a streamlined approach to interpreting and implementing complex legal texts. This transformative concept revolutionizes how laws are understood and applied. MRR represent a shift towards clarity and efficiency. This innovation replaces traditional verbose legal language with structured, standardized formats that can be processed by computers. In this enlightening discussion, we will delve into what machine-readable regulations entail, why they are becoming the preferred choice in regulatory practices, and how they are revolutionizing the way laws are interpreted and enforced. Join us as we explore this transformative approach with insights from a top expert in the field, Vincent van Dijk.

Can you share a bit about yourself and your professional background? 

Well, of course. My name is Vincent. I have a degree in International Public Law, and bring 25 years of experience in legal analysis, rule governance, and rule-driven solutions in all kinds of legal domains. I am also a Board Member of the Business Rules Platform Netherlands. It is a community for everyone working in the domain of business rules and smart solutions. Last but not least, I have also been working on Be Informed solutions for almost 18 years now.

Having a legal background, did you combine these two sectors because you had a particular interest in IT?  

At the beginning of my career, I was captivated by the potential to automate decisions based on legal rules with expert systems. Yet, I quickly noticed a notable gap between the intricate language of the legal field and the practical world of IT implementations. This disparity between legal and IT professionals sparked my interest in bridging these two worlds, drawing upon my legal background and knowledge of IT. 

This is a nice bridge to my second question. Could you explain what standardization and machine-readable regulations are?

They are related but also two different concepts. It’s about structuring a certain domain to make it more predictable and have more scalability. So, if you look at Lego, there are all kinds of bricks. But you can put every brick on top of another brick because there is a standard pattern in combining them. The same applies for a standard. There are always decisions and legal grounds for decisions, and there is a dependency between decisions. If you look at those common elements of a legal text, then you can use them through standardization. 

If you have a standard, it is easier to look at the legal text because you will know what elements you will need and what elements are important for your implementation. Also, you will have more insight into the legal text because you can point out those elements more easily. 

After all, they are part of the legal grammar of the standard. That’s where the machine-readable element comes into place. Because if you know what the elements are, you can make them explicit. You can conceptualize those elements, so they become part of the legal text themselves. If you know what a decision is in a legal text or a ground for a decision, you can make a concept out of it.

How does the Be Informed platform expedite decision-making processes, and what key concepts drive this efficiency?

Well, if you look at the Business Modelling Studio (BMS) and the Application Modelling Studios (AMS), it’s all about decisions and how you make them. To make a decision, you need norms and grounds. And those are exactly the concepts that are part of legal grammar. If you can point out those concepts in an early stage and, more importantly, the relation between those concepts, the relation between the decision and the norms and the grounds, then you can go more quickly with the decisions in the Be Informed platform. Because you have all the components available, the decisioning building blocks are available.

machine readable regulations help with compliance

Why and which organizations should utilize machine-readable regulations, and what benefits will they get from it?  

Adopting machine-readable regulations is crucial for governments to streamline the lawmaking process. Currently, there exists a significant gap between lawmaking and implementation, necessitating extensive interpretation by analysts. However, if lawmakers embed interpretation into legislation from the outset, the need for subsequent analysis and transformation is greatly reduced. Machine-readable regulations enable the identification of key elements and their definitions, streamlining the process and facilitating easier translation into implementations. This results in more effective laws and clearer regulations that can be more seamlessly integrated into commercial practices, ultimately benefiting both government processes and the business sector. 

How does norm engineering align with the adoption of machine-readable regulations? 

Norm engineering involves translating legal texts into practical specifications or directly executable models, like Be Informed.It identifies decisions, norms, and evaluation grounds, essentially turning legal grammar into tangible specifications, such as knowledge models. 

Using standards in norm engineering enhances scalability and repeatability, providing a structured foundation for analysis. However, applying standards across diverse regulatory domains poses a challenge due to significant variations in regulations. Flexible standards are needed to accommodate these differences while still facilitating effective analysis.

Are there any obstacles in organizations or processes accepting the use of machine-readable regulations in terms of application and usage?  

We all recognize the benefits of streamlining processes and reducing analysis workload. However, the lawmaking profession tends to favor traditional approaches and incorporate ambiguous terms to allow for interpretation in various circumstances. Lawmakers are not primarily concerned with making laws explicit and suitable for implementations; that’s the role of analysts. Nevertheless, collaboration between IT and legal sectors can enhance understanding and improve implementations. It shouldn’t follow a waterfall approach, where laws are written, analyzed, and then implemented separately, as this increases interpretation risks and possible wrong decisions. More integration of both sides ensures better laws and deeper understanding throughout the process. 

What advice would you give future professionals interested in understanding legal regulations and interpretation? 

Well, delving into legal regulations and interpreting them can indeed be like solving a puzzle. It involves synthesizing various elements from legal texts to discern their meaning and establish a sound decision structure. While it’s undeniably challenging and labor-intensive, I believe that leveraging standards, standardization techniques, machine-readable regulations, and AI can enhance the work of analysts. These tools can streamline tasks, eliminate repetitive work, and ultimately facilitate better decision-making processes. 

So, for those aspiring to enter the realm of legal analysis and rule governance, understanding the evolving landscape of standards, methods and technology can be immensely beneficial for future endeavors.

About Vincent van Dijk

Vincent has over 25 years of experience in Norm Engineering-driven solutions. A background in law and extensive involvement in rule-based IT projects enables Vincent to bridge the gap between the (legal) business domain and solutions for organizations dealing with questions on how to translate the legal domain into implementations. Vincent is passionate about building knowledge architectures and analyzing and structuring rules, processes, and information based on architecture and (international) standards.

Vincent’s expertise covers the entire spectrum, from lawmaking to digital services. This includes expertise in legal analysis, rule management, decision management, and the modeling of laws and regulations. Apart from project execution in these domains, Vincent provides advisory services to organizations on legal analysis, rule governance, rule execution, and the usage of (international) standards in that context.