According to Easy.brussels in 2021, only less than 25% of administrative procedures in Brussels can be accomplished online, and even if some are online, 40% of the citizens have low digital skills. Reports also showed duplication in information processes within administrative bodies, so it is no surprise that 71% of people in Brussels wish for a better sharing of information between administrations.
At the level of the Brussels region, there is no systematic anticipation of the impact of regulations and of the complexity of legislation for citizens and companies. The administrative load, as well as the complexity of the regulations adopted by the Region are sometimes a burden for citizens and an unnecessary cost for companies.
Bringing legal innovation to the Region, the SimpLex project aims to address these issues while taking in mind that when creating new services and texts, public officials should be mindful of the part of the population with low digital skills. Regional regulations are sometimes difficult to find and too complex to understand for citizens and companies. It also doesn’t help that different administrative bodies in Brussels often ask for the same information despite the “once only” principle.
The SimpLex project is built on three different pillars. The first pillar focuses on facilitating access to regional regulations and on using artificial intelligence tools, such as Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, to build ex-ante and ex-post tests to foster administrative simplification. Regarding access to regulation, the project focuses on the feasibility of building a user-friendly central repository for regional regulations for Brussels, being the only administration in Belgium to not have a central database. Regarding computerised tests, the project focused especially on tests assessing the respect of the once-only principle and of the technological neutrality principle.
The second pillar of the SimpLex project aims to introduce the “rules as code” approach promoted by the OECD to the Regional Administration. This pillar aims at simplifying legislative drafting, and starts a reflection on how this approach could contribute to administrative simplification for citizens and companies while saving enforcement costs for the Region.
The third pillar concerns the accessibility and understandability of regulations. Focusing on a bite-sized, easy approach to accessing regulation information is crucial for Brussels because of its status in the EU and as the second most cosmopolitan city globally. Therefore, this project aims at introducing the administration to legal design as a tool to better communicate the content of regional regulations to the public and contribute to better inclusion in a multicultural society.