The ambitious project worth around Rs 35,000 crore aims to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to 2.50 lakh gram panchayats in India by March 2017.

"NOFN will lead to an empowered India with villages boarding the Internet superway. It will also lead to an explosion of e-commerce in the country," Prasad said at the first meeting of the Centre and States to deliberate on various initiatives under the Digital India programme.

A lot of growth opportunities, both for the industry and people, will come up with the whole country being connected through broadband, he added.

"As Internet will reach villages and all the cities, the people there will go online to shop for things, which in turn will lead to expansion of e-commerce and opening up of more warehouses. This will lead to creation of more jobs and growth in the economy," the Minister said.

According to a joint study by consultancy firm PwC and industry body Assocham, the size of the e-retail industry is poised to touch USD 10-20 billion by 2017-2020 and e-commerce firms are expected to spend up to USD 1.9 billion by 2017-2020 on infrastructure, logistics and warehousing.

Another report by consulting firm Technopak pegs the USD 2.3 billion e-tailing market to reach USD 32 billion by 2020.

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