Personally I kind of like the idea of playing an empire game where there is a limit to the current knowledge I have. I could know exactly what is happening right around the current focus point of my empire, where ever my center of power is currently positioned, but elements further out become more and more delayed. Managing your choice of governors for your far flung regions, rather than managing the entire regions themselves, sounds like an interesting aspect of gameplay that is rarely used. (I'm personally not a fan of micro management in strategy games. I want to be stepping back, making high level choices that set in motion major changes and turning points, not deciding what colour of knob should be on Sally-1032814523 of my 300234th colony's toaster and whether or not it clashes with her eye shadow.)
Delay and forcing the user to either remain small or relying on sensible AI management can create some interesting options that we rarely get to see in games. Do you choose a great general/admiral to lead your exploration fleet at the far edge of your empire on a new mission of expansion while you ensure full control over your most valuable central planets, or do you place your capitol under control of a trusted governor and lead the expedition yourself?
You can even include a more in depth high level character advancement aspect to the game play, similar to your generals in the Total War series. Your agents gain and lose traits over time, they can have wants and ambitions, and if the player manages their followers poorly then they can find 'fun' things like an influential and highly charismatic general suddenly declaring half your empire independent.
High level strategy and communications management/design could also mean that players could assert some form of influence over other players 'distant' parts of the empire. Encourage rebellion, subvert disloyal or generally butthurt governors, etc.