Data is increasingly being viewed as a resource as vital as oil was in the 20th century, with the vast accumulation of information leading to new services across a variety of industries. As the analogy suggests, data is fueling innovation: Firms are studying consumer habits to develop new products, feeding patients' data into artificial intelligence for the creation of new drugs and bringing self-driving vehicles closer to reality.

For Japan, it hopes to create what it calls "Society 5.0," a supersmart society where the so-called internet of things, AI and big data generate innovation to help expand the economy and resolve social problems.

But concerns are mounting that valuable reservoirs of information will increasingly be confined within national borders, a phenomenon known as data localization.