Data analytics tool helps departments design better regulations

Policymakers are harnessing the power of advanced data analytics to design better regulation and implement it more effectively.

The Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has partnered with GovTech start-up Law Notion; an app that uses AI to automatically analyse regulation across multiple sectors and regions to provide new insights.

The platform identifies applicable sectors and geographical regions, detects policy topics and their relationships and can assess complexity levels. All of this can be used to gain a more in-depth understanding of the impact of regulations. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) used Law Notion in a project last year when assessing whether regulatory volume on different sectors affects economic growth.

CEO & Co-founder at Law Notion, Jiaxin (Jessie) Xie, tells Government Transformation Magazine that the app enables policymakers to better understand the “complex and rapidly changing regulatory landscape” when evaluating and designing new policies and “increases the possibilities of better policy-making in the future.” 

The start-up was formed in response to a Gov Tech challenge proposed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, seeking technological solutions to help analyse the cumulative effect of different regulations on business. 

DEFRA’s Farming and Countryside Programme 

DEFRA has used Law Notion’s analytics platform in the Farming and Countryside Programme, a strategy designed to deliver the commitment set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan for fair, clear, effective regulation for farming that delivers good outcomes for both the environment and animal health and welfare.

“They’ve been able to use the app in a whole host of different ways,” Jessie explains. “From looking over the stock of regulation that their department produces, to understanding the impact regulations from other departments have on certain sectors.” 

DEFRA’s Legal Standards Policy team in the Farming and Countryside Programme said the platform has driven efficiencies on multiple levels. It has allowed them to upskill new members of staff on the complex regulatory landscape that governs its policy area, quickly find regulated activities within specific pieces of legislation, map regulations against assurance scheme standards, and identify and interrogate regulation in a particular policy area to ensure it is fit for purpose. 

Transforming environmental policymaking 

The process of creating new policies and understanding their impact is complex and time-consuming; advanced data analytics offers a way to optimise resources and allow civil servants to focus their efforts on activities that deliver the greatest results. 

The traditional test-and-trial nature of regulatory research and analysis is one challenge the Law Notion app aims to resolve. Environmental laws in particular, and how they’ve been enforced, vary greatly between countries and time periods; studying and comparing previous regulations to make informed decisions requires careful analysis of the regulatory context to ensure comparability - something policy-makers often overlook, Jessie notes.  

“By having access to high-quality information quickly and flexibly, regulators of specific industries can be proactive in identifying regulatory issues, rather than reactively relying on feedback from businesses,” Jessie says. 

At the end of January the Government released the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, which looks to restore and sustain environmental quality over the next quarter-century. The strategy sets out specific goals for how government departments will work with communities and businesses to uphold these commitments. 

This is one specific area where Jessie believes Law Notion’s services can be particularly effective. She says policymakers can use the platform to see what regulations are made in other departments towards each of the environmental goals and to observe the impact of these; enabling where necessary, greater collaboration with other departments or enforcement agencies. 

The future of regulation 

Jessie believes advanced data analytics is going to play a much larger role in shaping future understanding of the UK’s regulatory landscape. “Brexit and Covid-19 are two specific events that had a significant impact on the UK’s economy, and where regulatory bodies adapted quickly to future-proof markets and foster innovation,” she notes. 

As UK policymakers seek to regulate emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and create policies to address national climate goals, Jessie says there will be “significant demand” or services that can provide a point of reference for what has worked well in other countries. 

Law Notion is looking to expand its offering and is currently  incorporating regulations in Northern American countries (eg. Canada, United States), which will complement the EU regulations that the application already contains. “This will allow UK policymakers to compare regulations internationally and gain valuable insights that help establish regulatory benchmarking,” Jessie says. 

Government Data Forum


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