You’re running around the store collecting last-minute Valentine’s day goodies: a box of chocolates, flowers, a Hallmark card. As your eyes scan the pink, red and gold heart-shaped boxes on the shelf in front of you, you stop to pull out your iPhone; maybe you have an app that will give you detailed nutritional information, an app that will allow you to compare prices with other stores, or maybe, you are looking for information about the company behind the brand.
BizVizz is an iPhone app that launched early this month. The app makes it easy for consumers to access financial information from some of America’s largest corporations. Users can view tax paid, money received in government subsidies and where the company sends their campaign contributions. At the time of launch, the application allowed users to view stats for 300 large companies and over 900 brands, and the list is growing. To use the app, you start by taking a picture of a brand: in the store, on television or at home. Once the app recognizes the image, users are able to view the company’s financial information.
Brad Lichtenstein, a documentary filmmaker and president of 371 Productions, was inspired to develop the app because of his work on the film As Goes Janesville. The movie follows a community in Wisconsin as a General Motors plant closes their doors. One of the many issues in the film is a corporation that obtains taxpayer dollars while citizens remain uninformed. The experience making the film and witnessing these events sparked Lichtenstein’s interest in developing a tool to make corporate behavior more transparent. A diverse group of businesses and organizations have joined Lichtenstein as BizVizz partners including: AFL-CIO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Sunlight Foundation. Faculty Creative, a Philadelphia-based digital creative agency, worked with 371 Productions to develop the app that is now available on iTunes.
371 Productions and Faculty Creative have new ideas in the works. They plan to provide users with alerts that will link to relevant news, opportunities to become involved in corporate accountability campaigns and legislation issues. In the future, they hope to develop an Android version and a feature that will alert users when nearby brands are represented in the app.
With so much available at our fingertips, BizVizz offers hard to find information clearly and easily, potentially leading users to better choices as consumers and citizens. “This is public information,” says Lichtenstein. “We’re just making it visible.”
[Image courtesy of BizVizz]
Heidi Sistare is a freelance writer who just completed the documentary writing and multimedia storytelling program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. She holds a BA in Social Work from Warren Wilson College and has experience in non-profit management, community development, and planning for small businesses. Visit her website at: www.heidisistare.com