Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates signed a cooperation agreement with UNESCO on Wednesday to improve access to computers, the Internet and information technology training in developing countries.
The Microsoft co-founder and Koichiro Matsuura, head of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, signed the deal at a meeting in Paris.
Under the agreement, Microsoft and UNESCO will work together to increase computer literacy in poorer countries and to expand the contribution of computers to economic development.
"Our shared goal is to help remove barriers to digital inclusion and enable people around the world to realize the full potential of technology," Gates said.
The agreement also focuses on training teachers and other professionals to use computers to share information.
The Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft already offers IT educational programs under its Partners in Learning and Unlimited Potential initiatives.
(Microsoft and NBC-Universal are partners in MSNBC.)
The UNESCO agreement comes at a time when the world's largest software provider is facing a growing challenge to its Windows operating systems from Linux and other "open source" alternatives, so called because their underlying code is freely shared.
The German city of Munich last year announced a switch to Linux-based software, and Paris City Hall said last month it planned to phase in more open source systems. Similar public-sector efforts are under way in China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.
After the UNESCO meeting, Gates was due to meet Jacques Chirac, the French president's office said.
Chirac spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said the two men would discuss development issues including the fight against AIDS in Africa and the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the billionaire's philanthropic organization.
The foundation's endowment currently stands at about $30 billion after Gates handed over some $3 billion he earned from a one-time dividend paid out to Microsoft shareholders in July.