When a devastating earthquake struck his homeland, Yasir Javed decided he wanted to do something that could help authorities cope with big disasters.

He came to Auckland and is developing a program to co-ordinate emergency evacuations that could potentially save the lives of thousands of people if a volcano erupted in the city.

Mr Javed was in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on October 8, 2005, when the earthquake hit, killing 79,000 people and destroying millions of homes.

At the time, he was in his final semester of a bachelor of information technology degree and he joined the relief effort after his university closed temporarily.

Communication was virtually non-existent in the aftermath of the quake as people struggled to get in touch with relatives and friends who were missing or injured.

Mr Javed said that many people didn't know if their loved ones were dead or alive. They would turn up at hospitals desperate for any shred of information.

"It was very difficult for people to get in touch with anyone," he said.

"They would arrive at the nearest hospital and hope they would find someone there but it was difficult to find them [in the confusion]."

He set up a computer database of victims admitted to hospitals in Abbottabad so that survivors could trace their missing family.

After that, he developed a system to collect data, reporting on the rebuilding of damaged homes to make sure authorities could keep track of all the rebuilding phases.

It was that experience that inspired him to work with technology in disaster scenarios to save lives.

Mr Javed was given a scholarship to apply computer technology to help manage disasters and travelled to Massey University's Albany campus to develop it.

"New Zealand is quite disaster-prone and it seemed the ideal place to do this kind of research," he said.

His doctoral project involves the design of an internet package called Situation Aware Volcanic Eruption Reasoner (SAVER) that will hopefully assist emergency services by giving them a clearer picture of the disaster and helping them decide where to send resources.

He said he began the project in Auckland after it emerged that its emergency services didn't have integrated information management system - and if that continued, lives could be lost. If a volcano erupted in Auckland, authorities would need to respond quickly.

"There is likely to be only a very short warning period so it's important to be prepared for the evacuation of up to a million people."

Mr Javed said it was important to use technology to save lives if it was possible.

"I have been through all of it so I know people can be helped by utilising technology."

While SAVER is being developed with an Auckland eruption in mind, he thought it could be modified to other disasters such as hurricanes and floods.