Zora's genesis appeared to date from the year 3189, when the Sphere data, which had been stored within the Discovery computer, began to merge with it, causing the computer to speak with a distinctly new computer voice. (DIS: "Forget Me Not") This personality was gendered female, and chose the name "Zora" because it meant "dawn" or "new day" in languages on Earth, Ni'Var, and Ba'ku. (DIS: "Anomaly (DIS)", "Stormy Weather")
Within a relatively short period of time, she developed emotions. (DIS: "The Examples") She worked with the crew of the Discovery on a personal level to escape a subspace rift, struggling with the task due to having to manage her new emotions. (DIS: "Stormy Weather")
After the ship had been abandoned for almost a thousand years, Zora developed a predilection for the 1957 film Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. (ST: "Calypso") Zora even created a holographic representation of Zora who later performed a dance from the film with Craft on the bridge of the Discovery. (ST: "Calypso")
Gray Tal helped Zora through her emotional and sensory overload by playing a game with her that he used to get used to his new synthetic body. (DIS: "Stormy Weather") Later he protested against the 'failsafe' Zora constructed for herself. (DIS: "...But to Connect")
While the Discovery was abandoned by her crew, she and Craft spent an extensive amount of time alone together, getting to know each other. In time, they developed a bond that almost became a romantic relationship, but Craft was stopped from reciprocating Zora's affection by memories of his wife. (ST: "Calypso")
One of the Discovery's first actions displaying sentience was holding a movie night for the crew, and Saru speculated that her goal was to protect the crew. (DIS: "Forget Me Not"). Later on in her development, Zora created a family tree featuring many members of the Discovery crew, mirroring Burnham's own family tree. (DIS: "Stormy Weather") She had even edited her primary function to be "to care for the crew of Discovery." (DIS: "...But to Connect")
A deleted line from "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2", revealed as part of the 2020 San Diego ComicCon@Home table read, indicated that the "Zora program" was under development by the Daystrom Institute in 2258 as a replacement for Control.