Zara Rahman

Zara Rahman
2020 Digital Civil Society Lab Practitioner Fellow
Project Title:
Exploring the social and political consequences of the spread of DNA testing

Project Overview:

The use of DNA testing is spreading around the world, but within these technologies lie a great deal of assumptions and biases, and many uses are based on science which has deep xenophobic assumptions at its core. Through this project, I'll document how these technologies have been developed and their histories, as a way of building up an evidence base to support civil society in advocating on these issues, and identify potential advocacy strategies that can and have been used to mitigate negative impacts.


Zara Rahman is a Berlin-based researcher and writer whose interests lie at the intersection of power, technology and justice. Her most recent work focuses on the role that technology is playing in shaping our identities and our sense of selves and each other, and has written about this through the lens of immigration, refugee rights for the Rohingya in Bangladesh, and more broadly, the limits of digital data in shaping our identities.

Over the past decade, her research has focused on supporting the responsible use of data and technology in advocacy and social justice, working with activists and organisers from around the world to ensure context-driven and thoughtful uses of tech and data. She is currently the Deputy Director at The Engine Room, an international non-profit organisation supporting civil society to use tech and data more effectively and strategically in their work.

She was a 2016/17 fellow at Data & Society, where she worked on creative and artistic ways of boosting critical data and tech literacy, and she recently concluded a 2-year fellowship at digitalHKS at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she worked on understanding the origins of certain identification technologies. 

Her past work has included campaigning for an access to information law in Spain, investigating the impact of open data in the extractive industries in the Middle East during the uprisings in 2011/12, and supporting data literacy efforts with civil society and journalists across the world with School of Data. She also sits on the Advisory Committee of CREA, a feminist human rights organisation based in India, and she writes about digital policy and technology in Bangladesh for Global Voices.