National Construction Code

A digital prototype to help reduce the complexity of regulation

Written by Troy McGregor and Neeyati Patel Data61 CSIRO 16/05/2017
Image of Data 61 and CSIRO logos and technology

Data is a critical resource in a world leveraging digital technology to increase efficiency and gain insights for decision making.

This is why the Australian Government is committed to releasing the value of public data - making it openly available drives data use, re-use and innovation.

But what represents data is probably broader than you think, and can include the rules and regulations influencing our everyday decisions. As far as public data goes, regulation is the key data set of governments. So how can we realise its value, and use computers and mobile technology to do some of the heavy lifting; to reduce the time, cost and complexity for end users? By building a platform that anyone can use.

Construction industry regulation

The construction industry is large and has its fair share of compliance requirements, and even small savings in time and cost multiply across the economy. So it is not surprising that the CSIRO’s data innovation unit, Data61, is looking at testing regulation in the construction industry.

The pilot project, called Regulation as a Platform, is planning to digitise part of the NCC, and make it freely available on the prototype platform later this year. Test applications can leverage these rules and the platform’s reasoning engine via open Application Program Interfaces.

Digitising the NCC rules will be done with the support of the building regulators from Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. It will also be watched by the ABCB, which is supportive of the project concept, as it embarks on its own digital strategy to make the NCC more accessible.

Regulation as a Platform (RaaP)

Regulation as a platform is a two-year proof-of-concept project. The aim is to show how business regulation can operate as a platform. In this case, a platform that aims to support a range of software and services to help reduce the burden at the business level.

What these might look like will depend on user demand and the imagination of ‘app’ developers. But in the building industry, this could be as simple as an app to assist a building designer to quickly identify and apply requirements specific to a project element. More broadly, apps could leverage the platform to provide a means of quickly and cheaply identifying the key compliance points across all relevant legislation so that business planning can be more effective.

How does the platform work?

The underlying technology is based on over ten years of R&D focused on accurately representing and reasoning with regulation. The regulation is first converted to a digital logic format that computers can understand, process and reason over. It can then be reviewed and edited by the responsible regulator to ensure it is an accurate representation of the law. The key value proposition of the platform is that it provides an open single source of quality checked rules for app and service developers.

As a prototype project, the technology needs user feedback to drive continued design and development over the life of the project. Regulation published on the platform will be used for testing proof of concept, value to industry and garner feedback on platform design. This is a prime opportunity for app developers in the ‘regtech’ space to test drive and influence the technology.

Why a platform?

In a nutshell, a digital platform provides a base that others can build on to create different applications and services, by leveraging the same functionality or underlying data. In the case of regulation, the underlying data is public rules in a digital form, maintained and updated by government. Platforms can be entire ecosystems - think of all the businesses using the EBay platform as a digital shopfront, or websites and apps that leverage Google Maps functionality.

Data61

The engineering and design team building a prototype is from Data61. This is the CSIRO’s digital Research and Development unit, and one of the world’s largest digital research teams with more than 1,100 staff. Its network includes 14 leading incubators, 29 university and over 90 corporate partners, and all spheres of government.

Data61 is at the cutting-edge of the Australian Government’s commitment to value creation from public data. Data61’s open data projects are supported by National Innovation and Science Agenda funding, and aim to connect high-value government datasets and release them on public open data platforms.

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