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Microsoft to spread software through U.N.

Software maker teams up with UNESCO to boost the number of languages in which its applications are offered.

Microsoft signed an agreement Wednesday with UNESCO to promote the use of information technology in education in developing nations and boost the number of languages in which its applications are offered.

Under the agreement, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will support the software maker's efforts to expand the number of languages featured in its Local Language Program. That initiative, launched earlier this year, is designed to provide desktop software and tools in local languages by collaborating with governments and universities.

The U.N. agency also will collaborate with Microsoft to promote the refurbishment of tech devices. This effort is designed to help developing countries boost access to cost-effective computer technology.

In addition, Microsoft will help UNESCO develop IT curriculum and training courses for teachers. The company's initiatives, such as the Solutions Sharing Network and the Innovative Teachers program, will be used to try to improve education in developing countries.

The two bodies will jointly set up a technology center in North Africa to improve access to IT and develop skills among youths. They also will explore the possibility of collaborating under Microsoft's Partners in Learning program in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The software giant has focused its attention on developing countries by offering them products such as stripped-down Windows XP and software translated into local languages. These efforts come as open-source software is gaining clout in some countries.