Better Rules Hack

The Better Rules Hack is a weekend hackathon with the aim of exploring the ideas and practice of making legislation into machine consumable 'digital rules' that can be reused and integrated across domains for the benefit of businesses, individuals and communities. The aim is to understand the feasibility of providing government hosted machine consumable legislation as part of Government as a Platform. We want to understand how well aligned existing standards, languages, and toolsets are for across domain integration, and what the options are for how machine consumable legislation can be presented as authoritative open data. We also want to understand the value of machine consumable legislation to community and industry.

Hackathon participants will be required to build a working demonstrator that benefits their sector or community using digital rules from more than one source, for example, legislation from multiple agencies, or trade agreements, or any other form of rules from more than one source. Teams will need to show the value of digital rules, how they made the digital rules consumable by everyone, and share their lessons learnt.

The hack challenges have a strong focus on the technical side of things and teams should be aiming for working prototypes. As background, see the recent work from the Service Innovation Lab on Better Rules for Government.

The event is fully catered and there will be good coffee on site too.

If you have any questions please contact us via email [email protected].

The first event was run in Wellington on 19 & 20 May 2018 and was part of the Techweek series on Building Government’s Digital Service Innovation Capability. The second Better Rules Hack will be run in Tauranga on 28th and 29th July, 2018. Jointly run with Venture Centre.


Tauranga: Saturday 28th - 29th July, 2018

Registration Information

For the Tauranga Event you can register via Venture Centre. Don't worry if you haven't registered (although it helps us plan catering), you are welcome to turn up on Saturday. We do ask in the spirit of team effort that you commit to the weekend if you're joining a team challenge.

Otherwise you can subscribe to the Service Innovation mailing list to get updates on this and other events.


This is a small, fun event exploring the notion of legislation as code. The goal will be discussed on Saturday but you will need to demonstrate a working prototype that integrates rules from at least two sources (two Acts, two departments, two governments, two trade agreements, etc).

Only what is developed over the weekend will be considered eligible for prizes. There is one high level challenge framed as a "better benefit for society" that you can start thinking about and researching now, but nothing built before the weekend will be considered eligible for judging.

The aim is to produce reusable legislation as code sourcing your material from and/or produce or use coded rulesets from elsewhere. We will provide access to the legislation we have produced as reusable code, e.g. the rules behind the SmartStart Financial Help tool and the coded legislation for the Rates Rebate Act. It is important that you integrate at least two sources of rules as this demonstrates the pontential of "law as code."

Teams will need to submit the following, through the team registration form before the end of the hack

  • A descriptive project page, listing your team members and contact details, details about your project and which competition category you are going for, including a short description of what rules you have digitised from what sources (eg, Social Security Act and Rates Rebates Act) and a link to your project video and source code.
  • The lessons learned from your experience in trying to build digital rules for your project, including any standards, tools or technologies used.
  • A screencast video of your project submitted to youtube or vimeo, with link provided to the project page above. Please note this video must be limited to 3 minutes.
  • Outcomes from the project itself (any code, graphics, mashups, applications, website URLs, photos of each stage to create your artistic representation etc) must all be made available under an open source/content licence to be eligible for prizes. If judges are able to see and play with it that is useful (such as an online prototype), but this is a secondary consideration when judging. Teams may put the code/source on GitHub, Sourceforge or an equivalent repository system and must make the URL available on their team page for verification.

Optional Sources

Results from the Wellington Hack can be found here.

Below are a few APIs with rules as code that you are welcome to experiment with, or you can roll your own. See the tools section for a list of others.

Target Audience

Software developers, legal professionals, service designers, academics, legislative drafters, linked and open data specialists, compliance companies, social intrapreneurs, innovators, startups.

Code of Conduct

Please make sure to read our Code of Conduct found here.


The participants will be the ones that decide the winning hacks (there will be a presentation and voting session) and the winners will be able to choose from:

Sponsor Prize
Catalyst Cloud A $6,000 development grant with the Catalyst Cloud. The grant allows your to carry on developing their projects for 12 months and use up to $500 of cloud services per month.
Dev Academy A Human Skills workshop. Human Skills is all about emotional intelligence. Human Skills help us create an optimal learning mindset and environment for our students by addressing the human side of software development.
Accenture Take your ideas futher with five hours of mentoring support (delivered face-to-face or remotely) and see were it could good.
Legal Hackers A Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker. Get hands on experience with voice interfaces and consider what that might mean for access to better rules.

Tauranga Location

Basestation, 148 Durham St, Tauranga, New Zealand

Since the event is run on the weekend we can't leave the doors open the entire time. Doors will be open before the event starts on Saturday and Sunday. After that please use the doorbell and someone will come and open the doors.


Saturday 28th July

Time Slot Description
8:30am Doors open There will be someone at the building entrance able to let you in up until 9:00am after that you'll need to phone us.
9:00am Introductions Introductions, instructions and launch.
9:30am Competition starts Sort out the teams and define the problem launch into it.
9:00pm Day One Ends We'll be finishing up at the venue at 9pm.

Sunday 29th July

Time Slot Description
8:30am Doors open There will be someone at the building entrance able to let you in up until 9:00am after that you'll need to phone us.
9:00am Start 2 of Day two Carry on with your teams challenge.
4:00pm Finalise your hackathon challenges Pull together all the results, get them up to github. Create the team summary video and upload it to Youtube. All work is expected to be under Creative Commons license.
4:00pm Presentations and awards You started the challenge Saturday morning and you've managed to get all your findings up on time. Congratulations, it may have been rushed at the last minute but it will have been fun. Friends and family welcome.
5:30pm Day Two Ends It's a wrap.


We are seeking sponsors at the moment, so please contact Pia Andrews if you would be interested in helping support this event with prizes (ideally hardware, training or other services) or catering.


The Better Rules Hackathon is being run inconjunction with these great partners.