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Spam under control in 2 years

"Spam is a major security problem," said Gates, while noting that progress had been made in the fight against unsolicited mail.

"We hope this problem will be under control within two years," Gates told an internet forum organised by Spanish daily El Mundo.

On Thursday, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer revealed at a Microsoft-sponsored Asia Leadership Forum in Singapore that Gates is probably the most "spammed" person in the world, receiving an estimated four million e-mails daily, most of them spam.

However, the software mogul's anti-spam department filters out all but a handful, according to Balmer.

According to Gates, the amount of spam is going down as "new technologies are bringing it under control."

In addition, he noted that governments are increasingly handing out tough sentences to spammers they catch.

Praising the role of the World Wide Web in broadening the global spread of education Gates admitted that "not everything on the web is good," alluding to concerns that terrorists can use it for their own ends.

He predicted that within a decade the web would be less prone to security lapses.

Gates later said during talks with Spanish Minister for Industry Jose Montilla that he hoped governments would pursue a "neutral " line regarding the purchase of new technology and software.

The online edition of business daily Cinco Dias noted Friday afternoon that that comment appeared to allude to decisions by some Spanish regional governments to buy freeware from open-source provider Linux (news - web sites), a Microsoft competitor.

Gates said furthermore he wanted to see greater use of computer programmes in the digital era to help to push up literacy levels in poorer countries. "There is no doubt that technology plays a key role in development," Gates said. The Microsoft chairman also met with some 300 IT experts and signed a number of collaboration agreements with the Madrid regional government and the Banesto bank, involving development of a programme to bolster competitivity among small and medium enterprises. Gates was in addition scheduled to sign a similar accord with Spanish association for the blind ONCE.