The role of broadband in promoting citizen participation in state, local and federal government processes was spotlighted late last week during the first of a series of FCC workshops on the development of a national broadband plan. Over the next few months, the FCC intends to host 20 workshops that will seek public input on a range of topics relating to the broadband plan that the agency is required to deliver to Congress next February. Opening the workshop, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stressed the importance of broadband in making the FCC and all government agencies more open to the needs of Americans, as he quipped: “there is no excuse for not connecting every American with one another and their government.” Among the state and federal government officials invited to speak at the panel was U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, who said there is a “hunger for information” in the public domain that the government can satisfy on a “real-time basis” through the Internet. Although the Obama Administration has already scored some early success in achieving that goal through the launch of websites such as the IT Dashboard and, Kundra called for increased emphasis on the expansion of broadband infrastructure, as he proclaimed: “we have an imperative to make sure that communities that are not able to access broadband, or not able to access the global economy and the digital world are not disenfranchised.” While testifying that “broadband is helping us to create the platform . . . to tap the intelligence and expertise of the American people,” U.S. deputy chief technology officer Beth Noveck pointed to the importance of education, observing: “as we open up and think about more open ways of providing data . . . there does need to be a degree of civic education and civic literacy and a strategy on the part of institutions who are now being invited to participate.” As part of that effort, Kundra added that the development of intuitive, easy-to-navigate web interfaces is essential in encouraging public participation in the government. Asserting that the FCC should view its national broadband plan as a compliment to “all the other national plans that are taking place,” former Fort Wayne, Indiana mayor Graham Richard said, “I see broadband in this plan being the infrastructure platform to support all of those.”