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Microsoft is close to signing a licensing deal with the Jamaican government, which should bring rampant piracy in the public sector under control.

Up to 50 per cent of Microsoft software used by the Jamaican government is unlicensed, according to a "highly placed source" of the Jamaican Observer. Private sector softare piracy in the country is even higher, running at 70 per cent, the Business Software Alliance estimates.

The Jamaican government has not yet worked out how much it will have to pay Microsoft, but says it should lead by example. It is currently toughening copyright laws to provide remedies against software piracy.

Microsoft is offering carrot rather than stick to the governments of developing countries. In recent weeks it has signed up Ghana and Angola for deep discounts in the education sector, sweetened further with free training programmes, and free Win2000 and Win 98 licenses for refurbed PCs, donated presumably by Western charities. ®

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