Staying alive - Australians rate disease prevention and healthcare as the most significant breakthroughs of the last 100 years

IBM Centennial survey finds significant generational differences with Generation Y believing the Internet is the #1 breakthrough of the century

Sydney, Australia - 24 May 2011: (NYSE: IBM) – Australians have rated disease prevention, public health and modern medicine as the most influential breakthroughs of the last 100 years.

The IBM Centennial survey[1] conducted to coincide with the company’s 100th anniversary polled more than 1000 Australians of mixed age, gender and location, on their views of most significant breakthroughs of the last 100 years.

Key findings include:

  • 25% of Australians chose the Internet as the most influential science and technology breakthrough. Interestingly, Generation Y respondents[2] rated the Internet higher than disease prevention and treatment.

Glenn Wightwick, Chief Technologist for IBM Australia commented on the findings, “On the 100th anniversary of IBM’s history, during which the world has witnessed extraordinary change and innovation, it’s fascinating to see what Australians recognise as the most significant breakthroughs in science, business and society.

“The survey reveals Australians value health and wellbeing above all else. Astounding improvements have been made to our quality of living through advances in science, technology and medicine. We all know there is nothing more precious than human life - advances in major disease prevention and treatment, including antibiotics, chemotherapy and the eradication of Smallpox would have been unimaginable at the turn of the 20th century. It’s interesting to note that all these breakthroughs occurred in a scientific laboratory. In the future, sophisticated data analytics is more likely to power life-sciences breakthroughs. IBM is focused on playing a future role in the eradication of diseases like cancer through the combined power of research and super-computing, as well as driving efficiencies in healthcare underpinned by electronic records,” Wightwick concluded.

Professor Les White AM, Chief Paediatrician for NSW commented: “It is fascinating and inspiring that Australians consider the field of disease prevention and treatment as the source of the biggest science and technology breakthroughs of the last century. I find it particularly heartening that my fellow citizens see breakthroughs for the greater good of society as well as their own health and wellbeing as more important than higher profile inventions.  It is interesting to note that Australia has an impressive history in medical and scientific breakthroughs and an enviable record in the improvement of the health of the population. The findings of this study should inspire us to maintain and enhance our efforts in healthcare and the research endeavours that underpin that enterprise.”

Commenting on the second place ranking of the Internet in the survey findings, Glenn Wightwick commented: “The results show Australians also acknowledge the Internet has transformed our lives. It is ranked more highly than breakthroughs such as public education and social welfare. IBM’s vision of a smarter Australia is to solve current and future challenges with interconnected systems enabled by super-fast broadband. IBM is proud to have been a contributor to this journey, and we look forward to contributing to the top innovations of the next 100 years.”

IBM Centennial Survey_Infographic

Survey Key Findings

With the last century bringing immense changes in every facet of life, the survey examined progress across three categories; science and technology breakthroughs, innovations in business and improvements to the way we live.

Science and Technology Breakthroughs - Most Influential of the Last 100 Years

Impact on Australian Business - Most Positive in the Last 100 Years

Impact on the Way that Australians Live - Most Positive in the Last 100 Years

Putting these findings in context of IBM’s Centennial, Glenn Wightwick concluded: “IBM has had a 100-year history marked by a unique balance between technology-focused innovation and advancement that has had strong societal impact. It’s interesting that through this research, Australians have chosen breakthroughs that mirror this dual focus: societal benefit, followed by technology innovation.”

A copy of the IBM Centennial Survey is available upon request. For further information on IBM’s top innovations over the last century, please visit IBM’s 100 Icons of Progress at

About IBM

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About The IBM Centennial Survey

This study was conducted online among a representative sample of Australian adults aged 18-64 years. The sample was 1,005 respondents, distributed throughout Australia, including both capital city and non-capital city areas. Galaxy Research designed the questionnaire, a copy of which has been included in this report. The questionnaire was transferred into Quest format in order to be hosted online. For each question the respondent had to click on the response which represented their answer. Fieldwork took place in March, 2011. Following the completion of interviewing, the data was weighted by age, gender and area to reflect the latest population estimates.

Appendix: The IBM Centennial Results Table (in order of ranking)

What are the most influential science and technology breakthroughs of the last 100 years?
What has had the most positive impact on Australian business in the last 100 years? What has had the most positive impact on the way Australians live in the last 100 years?
36% - Disease Prevention and treatment (such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, eradication of Smallpox)  17% - Business Tools (such as Typewriters, Calculators, Fax, Computers)  27% - Public Healthcare and Modern Medicine
25% - The Internet 14% - Occupational Health and Safety standards/regulations  16% - The Internet  (Including Computing and Networking)
11% - Computing (such as mainframe computers, discs, memory, PCs)  12% - Business Connectivity Through Networked Computers  12% - Public availability of Electricity and Water Through Grids
5% - Biotechnology and Genetic Research  12% - Globalisation  10% - Public Education
4% - Mobile Communications  10% - Workforce Equality 9% - Modern Transportation and Infrastructure (Including Railways, Cars, Highways, Airports)
3% - Television   10% - E-Commerce/E-Business 8% - Communication Devices (Including Telephony and Mobile Phones) 
2% - Space Exploration  8% - Employer education/training  6% - Modern Farming and Agriculture Techniques and Supply Chain (Including Refrigeration)
2% - New  Scientific Theories (such as quantum mechanics, general and special relativity) 6% - Workplace relations/ unionisation  6% - Social Welfare Services 
2% - Invention of Transistors  2% - Corporate Governance and Structure (Including Boards, Executive Roles, Compliance) 
1% - Commercial Air Travel    1% - Corporate Philanthropy  
1% - Nuclear Power 
1% - Laser and fibre optics technology
0% - Mass Car Production 

[1] Research findings based on 1005 respondents, distributed throughout Australia, including both capital and non-capital city areas

[2] Generation Y is classed as 18 – 29 year olds

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