Meet Research Fellow Zara Rahman

A get to know you series introducing the digital HKS fellows

digital HKS is an initiative at Harvard Kennedy School committed to teaching public leaders how to understand the relationship between technology, data, and the public interest by training them to assimilate how to design, build, and engage with digital technologies as they relate to civic participation, equity, governance, and accountability. The fellowship provides a space for thinkers and doers in the sphere of digital technology to explore ideas through research and engagement with the Harvard community at-large.

Zara Rahman

For her fellowship with digital HKS, Rahman is interested in understanding the consequences of technology being taken out of context. When western-designed technologies are taken outside of the US and Europe, how do the values and social norms embedded within those systems affect how they are used?

How do you hope your work will impact the world?

We take a lot of technical systems for granted, and a lot of them are being designed within western contexts — in effect, replicating many colonial dynamics, of poorer countries being sold certain ways of thinking or ways of doing things. With this project, I’d like to more closely interrogate what that means — how certain values might be being assumed upon other contexts, what the consequences are, and what other options are out there. I’d like us to get better at recognising existing solutions and ways of doing things, rather than privileging certain ways of seeing the world above others, and I hope this project will help us do that!
Zara Rahman at MozFest 2018 (picture courtesy of Sarah Anoun)

Do you have any book recommendations that relate to technology?

Learn more about Zara by reading a piece by her here:

Ties That Bind: Introducing our new research on organizational security for civil society